UMW Assembly 2018: The Power of Bold

By Rick Wolcott*

Assembly 2018 brought together more than 6,000 people from around the world to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of United Methodist Women and the Power of Bold.

“I believe United Methodist Women is as needed today as it’s ever been,” said CEO/General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson.  “This is a time for our own bold action.”

That action began even before the official opening of Assembly 2018.  More than 600 women participated in the Ubuntu Day of Service by volunteering at dozens of non-profit organizations in Columbus.  Many later joined a rally that called on the Ohio legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

Assembly 2018 attendees gathered in community, worshipped together, participated in interactive workshops, discovered how to mobilize for change, heard dynamic presentations, and learned about UMW’s four social justice priorities: Economic Inequality; Climate Justice; Maternal and Child Health; and Interrupting the School to Prison Pipeline.

“It is important to be here because this is motivation to keep women and children moving forward, educating people and bringing them together,” said Doris Moten of Aldersgate UMC (North Coast District), who was attending her second Assembly.

“This is my first Assembly.  I felt like I had to come to learn about our social action so I attended two workshops that were very informational,” said Becky Sutton of Roscoe UMC (Three Rivers District).  “I love the worship we have had because it makes you feel like you are connected with the whole world.”

The East Ohio Conference was well-represented inside the exhibit halls and meeting rooms of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, and was recognized for increasing its participation in Assembly 2018 by 30% over Assembly 2014.

“It’s important to be here to network, to learn what’s new, to make new friends, to learn new things, and for the older generations to mentor the newer generations,” said EOC UMW Vice President Sandy Marek of UMC Berea (North Coast District).

“This is my first Assembly and I have found it very inspirational.  I feel like I have a lot of things to take back home with me.  It’s been awesome,” said Jeanne Vaughn of Bay UMC (North Coast District).

“This gathering is about sisterhood.  Being on the risers with all of these women from East Ohio is one of the most heart-warming memories I will carry with me,” said EOC UMW President Kathy Kuhn of Sugar Grove UMC (Ohio Valley District).

“Assembly rejuvenates me.  It’s like coming home and connecting with friends,” said Jan Greiner, currently of the Kentucky Conference and formerly of the East Ohio Conference.

“The power of the mission connects us together.  The power of the mission calls for things that we did not think were available.  The power of our sisters equipping us for the work is one of the things that brings us home,” said Olson.

“I was inspired by the bold witness and leadership of the United Methodist Women from across the global church,” said Bishop Tracy S. Malone, one of 10 bishops who led the closing worship service.  “It was great to see different generations of women telling their stories of leadership, engaging in public action and learning together. When women unite amazing things do happen.”

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

“No more silence, end gun violence!”

By Rick Wolcott*

Resolution 3428 in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2016 urges “congregations to advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence.

The General Board of Church and Society Board of Directors stated at its March 16 meeting that, “Our hearts are broken at the number and frequency of mass shootings, and for the victims and families whose lives have been forever altered by these tragedies. We also know that in addition to mass shootings, gun violence in many forms impacts communities every day in the United States. Young people have been stepping forward leading a movement to end gun violence. We, as the General Board of Church and Society Board of Directors, encourage our churches and conferences to be supportive of this movement.”

A student makes her feelings known at the Cleveland rally with a sign that reads. "I want to read books not my friends' eulogies."
A student makes her feelings known at the Cleveland rally.

“Gun violence is one of the biggest issues that affects our daily life.  Nothing has been done for the past 19 years and we think that has to change,” said Andrea, an Olmsted Falls High School senior and a member of Strongsville United Methodist Church (North Coast District).

She and thousands of others gathered in Cleveland’s Public Square on Saturday, March 24 to participate in a March for Our Lives rally, one of more than 800 such rallies held across the country on that day.  The rallies took place only 10 days after thousands of high school students across the nation walked out of class on the one-month anniversary of the shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

March for our Lives Rally in Cleveland, youth speaking at podium
March for our Lives Rally in Cleveland

“When will it be time to talk about gun control?” Kevin, a Shaker Heights junior, asked the crowd in Cleveland before reciting how much time has passed since shootings at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, Chardon High School, the Aurora movie theater, Sandy Hook Elementary, the Pulse night club, Las Vegas, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.  “It has been time for far too long.  It is never too soon to talk about gun violence, only too late!”

“I’m tired of growing up in this world where we are just used to these shootings happening.  It’s the norm, and that’s just not right,” said Eric, a Normandy High School junior and member of Strongsville UMC.

Younstown marches and by-standers
March for Our Lives Rally in Youngstown

Carson Markley was one of the organizers of the Youngstown March for Our Lives rally.  The Youngstown State University student and member of Canfield United Methodist Church (Mahoning Valley District) said, “Throughout my Christian upbringing I have been taught to love my neighbor and take care of my fellow Christians but I can’t do that if we’re letting our neighbors, and our friends, and our kids die from gun violence.”

Mahoning Valley District Superintendent the Rev. Abby Auman wore her clergy robe in the march and carried a sign that read “Prayer Leads to Action.”

“Marching today felt like the beginning of Holy Week,” she said.  “While we often and rightly celebrate Palm Sunday as one when people proclaim Christ’s kingship, we should remember that it was also political street theater protesting oppression and brutality.  ‘Hosanna!’ does not mean, ‘praise the Lord!’ – that’s ‘hallelujah.’  ‘Hosanna’ means ‘God save us.’”

Auman marched with her daughter.

Rev. Abby Auman with her daughter and friend with sign "Prayer leads to action" at the Youngstown rally.
Rev. Abby Auman at the Youngstown rally.

“I took her in the hopes that this is the moment when we turn from ‘thoughts and prayers’ to ‘prayers and actions,’ so that I never have to make the choice of removing her life support as Jaelynn Willey’s parents did after last week’s shooting at Great Mills High School in Maryland.”

“Kids are genuinely scared,” Andrea said at the Cleveland rally.  “I can’t remember a time at school when we haven’t practiced lockdown drills, or had a teacher say, ‘if it comes down to it, I would take a bullet for you.’  Not only should teachers not have to say that, but students shouldn’t have to think about it.  There is so much to learn in school and we genuinely want to focus on that.”

At the March for Our Lives rally in Akron that drew more than 1,000 people, Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) Secretary Anna, a member of Wadsworth United Methodist Church (Canal District), said she doesn’t think adults understand what it feels like to go to school every day and be afraid.

“Every time I hear a loud bang, I jump,” she said.  “When I walk in a room, I look for an alternate exit, survey the room, and look for items I can use in self-defense.  Adults do not understand what that feels like, they need to understand we do know what we are talking about and we are asking for safety in our schools.”

“It warms my heart to see teens standing up for something they strongly believe in,” Kaye Wolfinger East Ohio Conference director of Young People’s Ministries said at the Akron rally.  “The church needs to see that teens will stand up and take action for something they believe in.”

Pastor Kyle Gould of Oak Chapel United Methodist Church (Mid-Ohio District) attended the Ashland March for Our Lives rally.

“I was there because I know God to be a God of life and love,” he said.  “I’ve grown incredibly concerned over the senseless violence we’ve seen in our world, and, especially with a son of my own, I had to do something. Our youth should be supported in speaking out for their own safety.”

Rev. Jon Priebe prays to a large crowd at the Ashland rally.
Rev. Jon Priebe prays at the Ashland rally.

Rev. Tom Snyder, retired, also attended the rally that began at Ashland Christ United Methodist Church.

“I realize that there are strong feelings on all sides of the gun issue, but the choice to participate in an event like this, knowing the opposition it might engender, reminds me of a favorite quote by the 19th Century English novelist, Samuel Butler: ‘People are equally horrified by hearing the Christian faith doubted and seeing it practiced,’” he said.

Rev. Paige Boyer speaks to marchers
March for Our Lives rally in Avon Lake, one of the featured speakers was the Rev. Paige Boyer.

At the March for Our Lives rally in Avon Lake, one of the featured speakers was the Rev. Paige Boyer of Lake Shore UMC (North Coast District).

“‘No more of this,’ that is what Jesus said as he healed the Roman soldier’s ear that had been cut off by one of the disciples the night Jesus was arrested,” she told the hundreds who lined Route 83 outside of Avon Lake High School.  “Today, we are marching against gun violence and saying ‘no more of this!’”

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

“Enough is enough!” Students Protest to Change Gun Control Laws

By Rick Wolcott*

“Alyssa Alhadeff, student, age14
Scott Beigel, teacher, age 35
Martin Duque Anguiano, student, age 14”

Outside Berea-Midpark High School, one by one the names were read of the 17 people killed during the Valentine’s Day shooting inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

massive group of students bow heads for moment of siklence
Moment of Silence Prior to Walk at Berea-Midpark HS

Berea-Midpark students joined thousands of others from schools across the country when they walked out of class on the one-month anniversary of the deadly shooting to protest the current gun control laws.

Berea-Midpark HS Walk for Change

Gathered near the memorial garden before their march around the school, Ben, a Berea-Midpark senior, told his fellow Titans, “take out your phones, take pictures, take videos, use the hash tag enough is enough, show people that we are no longer sitting back and letting things happen.”

“Today is all about the students and has been organized by them,” said Berea-Midpark High School Principal Vincenzo Ruggiero.  “Ben and the other students have been phenomenal in the planning of this march.  This is a student movement and our role has been to support it.”

“Nicholas Dworet, student, age 17
Aaron Feis, football coach, age 37
Jaime Guttenberg, student, age 14”

Berea-Midpark HS Students Walk for Change
Berea-Midpark HS Students Walk for Change

Clergy and laity from the United Methodist Church of Berea (North Coast District) stood in the school parking lot, watching the protest and praying for the students participating in it.

“The issue of gun violence that prompted today’s walkout is one that our community and our congregation is concerned with and I think it’s always important for the church to show up and be a witness for what we believe when there’s an issue that impacts our neighbors,” said UMC Berea Senior Pastor the Rev. Nathan Howe.

Rev. Nathan Howe, Don Moody, Rev. Carrie Antczak, and Claire Powell
Rev. Nathan Howe, Don Moody, Rev. Carrie Antczak, and Claire Powell

“As a former educator and school principal, I feel this is a really critical issue for our students to undertake because of their safety,” said Claire Powell, a lay member of UMC Berea.  “Hopefully they can be able to make a statement to the country and to the lawmakers and the NRA that there needs to be tighter gun control laws so that these incidents of gun violence will stop and children can feel safe when they go to school every day.”

“I think there is value in supporting the youth of our community and the causes that they believe in.  I think we need to stand with them and to pray for and with them,” said UMC Berea lay member Don Moody.

Ben was encouraged that members of the community were present for the walkout.

“It makes me happy that people have come out and are supporting what we are doing,” he said.

Student Protest at Youngstown Chaney HS
Student Protest at Youngstown Chaney HS

Outside Chaney High School in Youngstown, students also began their walkout by reading the names of those who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting.

“Chris Hixon, athletic director, age 49
Luke Hoyer, student, age 15
Cara Loughran, student, age 14”

Rev. Abby Auman, Mahoning Valley District superintendent, was in attendance offering prayer and showing her support.

“It is important to show the students that adults care about them and their safety, and that The United Methodist Church stands with them in calling for reform,” she said.  “I don’t know how Columbine wasn’t enough.  I don’t know how Sandy Hook wasn’t enough, or Chardon, or any of the other mass shootings enabled by AR-15s.  So if these high school students are ready and willing to stand up and say that gun ownership in America does not have to be an all or nothing proposition, and that their lives matter more than unlimited and unfettered gun ownership, I’m willing to stand with them and support them however I can.”

“Gina Montalto, student, age 14
Joaquin Oliver, student, age 17
Alaina Petty, student, age 14
Meadow Pollack, student, age 18”

“It was amazing to see so many students stand up for something,” said the Rev. Kelsey Orosan, pastor of Richard Brown Memorial and Trinity UMCs in Youngstown, and associate pastor of Boardman UMC.

Lucy Smith and Rev. Kelsey Orosan
Lucy Smith and Rev. Kelsey Orosan

She and Auman credit Richard Brown Memorial UMC members Penny Wells and Lucy Smith with organizing the Youngstown walkouts through their work with Sojourn to the Past, which takes students on a journey along the path of the Civil Rights Movement through the American South.

“The Sojourn students led the charge at all three Youngstown high schools with thoughtful and thought-provoking speeches that called students to take specific actions.” Orosan said.

In Youngstown and in Berea, students sent many messages on this day.  With their feet, they walked in protest of current gun laws.  With their hands, and the stroke of a pen, they registered to vote, giving them the power to make a difference at the polls.

“I’m encouraged by the students wanting to use their voice to share what’s on their hearts in the ways that they are peacefully protesting and making their concerns known to lawmakers,” said the Rev. Carrie Antczak, pastor of Christian formation and outreach at UMC Berea.  “I want to support that the students are doing what they can to change the world that they live in.”

“Helena Ramsay, student, age 17
Alex Schachter, student, age 14
Carmen Schentrup, student, age 16
Peter Wang, student, age 15”

 

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.