Saturday, August 19, 2006

Reflections: International United Methodist Clergywomen's Consultation

I just got back from a week in Chicago where I was attending the International United Methodist Clergywomen's Consultation. It was fabulous. I went not knowing what to expect, other than some time away, and time with clergy colleagues, which was enough for me. But I thoroughly enjoyed my time, the event, the worship, the experience.

I went to a college that had a very large, active Greek system, which I could never understand. I was totally turned off by the idea of sororities and fraternities. Didn't get the point. Sisterhood as a concept has never been appealing to me. It seemed to me mostly like a false sense of relationship with people based on - being women? Wearing the same Greek letters? Knowing secret rituals? But, for the first time, I felt a strong sense of sisterhood with my clergywomen colleagues, a sisterhood based on a common sense of call and vocation, a common faith, some common experiences, a common heritage, and hopefully, some common hopes/directions.

I was so proud to be a United Methodist clergywoman. I was very proud of our women bishops, who played a big role in the gathering. In a fun session, they each spent time sharing with us something they do for fun, relaxation, rest. They processed into the convention center wearing their robes, then took them off to reveal track suits, jeans, gardening-apparel, etc. Nice to see a different side of these women who I usually only see in worship, in AC, or leading a plenary of some sort.

Standout highlights:

  • A bible study led by two young adult clergy women on our focus text, Isaiah 61:1-6. One of the women focused on the word ashes. She asked, "what do we do with the remains" of what has burned in our life? She suggested we sometimes wear them, wallow in them, or even worship them, but that we ought to give our ashes to God, and God gives to us beauty from the ashes.
  • Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher commented (though now I cannot remember in what context) that "offering only my gifts [to God] is not enough."
  • Bishop Judy Craig preached another fabulous sermon - on Luke 18's "persistent widow." She spoke about clergywomen as door-knockers, and encouraged us, once we've succeeded in opening doors, to lay the doors on their sides and make them into bridges. Her sermon - phenomenal.
  • First woman bishop elected in a Central Conference Rosemarie Wenner preached on the hemorrhaging woman, and noted that Jesus did not say to her "my power has made you well" but "your faith has made you well."
  • Bishop Minerva Carcano preached at the closing worship. She has excellent use of her voice - varying it as part of her preaching style, using it to communicate. She talked about knowing that we were called, and knowing we were called in the midst of the sometimes "anger and violence of an unrepentant church."
  • Best: At our banquet celebrating fifty years of full clergy rights for women in the UMC, we got to hear from the three surviving female members of the class of 1956. (Full UMNS story here.) Rev. Grace Huck, 90, Rev. Marion Kline, 94, and Rev. Jane Ann Stoneburner Moore, 75, each spoke words of wisdom and encouragement. Kline said, "Back then, I could have never imagined that I would be in a room like this, of women ministers, district superintendents and bishops. Just see what God is doing." Wow - what an inspiration.

Irony: While spell-checking this post with the Blogger tool, the tool kept suggesting a replace "clergywoman," which it didn't recognize, with "clergyman." Eesh. Of course, the tool also doesn't recognize the word 'blog'...

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