The 2021-2024 United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group gathered via Zoom for its first annual meeting on March 11-13, 2021. This global gathering included national director Debra Payne representing the North Alabama Conference. The group members met for orientation and preparing for their work throughout the next four years. The program advisory group studies issues and prepares recommendations to the national board regarding mission priorities, mission education work, and program guidance for United Methodist Women. It includes representatives from every United Methodist conference as well as from national and global partners.
Program advisory group members are part of one of five working teams: membership, identity, relationship, technology, and story. Members also serve on United Methodist Women’s editorial board, Reading Program team, Legacy Steering Committee, Eliminating Institutional Racism team, and Assembly team. Debra serves on the Story/Brand team and as a conference officer liaison. Time was spent during the meeting describing the work of the teams and welcoming members on board.
The meeting’s theme, “Dream It, Believe it, Do it” was reflected in the reports from General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson and National President ‘Ainise ‘Isama’u. ‘Isama’u reminded members that “our foremothers dreamt it so that we - yes, all of us here - could achieve it. It’s now our time to dream bigger dreams and continue the legacy. The dreams we dream today lay the foundation for those women coming behind us. If we dream it, surely, they will achieve it. May it be so.”
Olson called the program advisory group members to the work of this quadrennium saying, “We will look - seeing needs and hearing women’s stories. We will consult with women “on the ground” and in the know. We will plan, believing that we can make a difference. We will raise funds to support the work, believing that this is our calling. And believing that God will use us for good in the world.”
Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Tamara Clark gave a report on giving and shared the ways members’ mission dollars are at work in the world through grants and scholarships, national mission institutions, regional missionaries and the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner as well as through member empowerment through leadership training, spiritual growth, transformative education and service and advocacy.
“Luke 8:1-3 talks about some bold women who gave out of their own means as an expression of God’s grace while still active in ministry,” Clark said. “As United Methodist Women members, we bring our gifts of not only finances but of time and service so that these offerings might be turned into miracles for women, children and youth.”
Each program advisory group meeting includes training on eliminating institutional racism. The March 2021 meeting focused on the history of United Methodist Women’s antiracism work, defining racism and sharing resources, including the Charter for Racial Justice, United
Methodist Women’s Just Energy for All and Interrupting the School to Prison Pipeline campaigns, and studying Pushout at Mission u.
A moving sermon by Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, Baltimore-Washington Conference, closed the weekend and called program advisory group members to be unbent women, to stand up straight and let God’s glory touch their faces, referring to the poem “Woman Un-Bent” by Irene Zimmerman.
“Be unbent, stand straight and walk in your calling,” Easterling said. “Be unbent, stand straight and take thou authority. Be unbent, stand straight and be free of your timidity. Be unbent, stand straight and serve. Be unbent and stand up against those who try to push you back down. Be unbent and stand up and say, ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me.’”
Throughout the gathering, program advisory group members dreamed and believed together for the future of United Methodist Women and its crucial role in the church and for a world in which all can thrive, and they left ready to do the work.
United Methodist Women is the official women’s organization of The United Methodist Church, with hundreds of thousands of members across the country whose vision is to put faith, hope and love into action for women, children, and youth.
Debra Payne is a member of Camp Branch UMC (South Central District). She serves as the national representative on the North Alabama Conference United Methodist Women Leadership Team gathering success stories and needs of local membership to report as well as sharing communications from the national office.