“A FRESH WIND BLOWING”
South Central Jurisdiction Quadrennial
“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
What a grand experience! A fresh wind was indeed blowing across the Oklahoma plains, from New Mexico and Texas to Missouri and Louisiana and through Kansas.
The pinwheel was the logo for the weekend, and was conceived and designed by Sue Sidney of Rio Texas and Mark How, an artist. Sue explained: “At one of my first UMW Schools of Christian Mission we were asked to describe ‘repentance.’ Another young woman and I decided that a pinwheel would be our symbol—turning around.” The pinwheel is clearly another manifestation of the huge windmills used for ages to harness the power of the wind and now more and more visible over the Texas plains in our quest of power-producing electricity. So this “fresh wind blowing” through UMW is the power born of the Spirit with whose power we must try to change discord and discrimination and diseased minds and bodies. Harriet Jane Olson put it well: “The UMW is the wind turbine, making the wind of the Spirit into power.”
From start to finish, we were immersed in American Indian culture, led primarily by members of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. The music was led by Marcus Brigg-Cloud of the Maskoke Nation. He is a scholar, activist and international lecturer. I encourage you to look him up online. He sang ethnic hymns and led us in our traditional hymns with an American Indian twist. He also brought us native dancers, who were absolutely beautiful. The drums and his native vocalizing added immensely to our services.
We also had a good smattering of African American music! Our current president of the board of directors (Yvette Richards) and our SCJ president (Edna Brown Hickman) brought their African American heritage to us with their lively spiritual personalities that are so endearing and exciting.
Although the entire gathering was enriching and exciting, the unquestioned highlight was the Bible study led by the Rev. Dr. Janet Wolf! What a powerful study she presented of the John passage. I’ll just list here some of my notes, not in any order.
“The enough-ness of God’s grace….The new American apartheid is the school-to-prison pipeline…The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but about 25% of the world’s known prison population…Our problem is our distance from the poor and our proximity to Caesar...Wesley saw that we would need the rich to keep up our buildings!... ‘A Womanist is a Feminist of color.’ <Alice Walker>… We should do theology from the margins…It isn’t people who are unclean; it’s the system. Not children who are failing; it’s the school systems…Criminalization is that churches are sitting on the side…There is no neutral position… Our charity is handing out backpacks but not addressing the system.”..… Dr. Wolf brought us to our feet with her litany of “We are the church when…” Her main point here was that we are the church when we move outside the building to address the brokenness of the worldwide systems.
Yvette Richards reminded us “We always need an action plan.” Yvette also reminded us of our worldwide presence and power. She and Harriet attended the meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in one of the Koreas, and one of the speakers made the mistake of allowing that women should not be so visible and outspoken. Whereupon Harriet asked permission to speak and quickly but quietly let the group of mostly men know of the work of the UMW. And Yvette added, “At the end of that meeting those people knew three more initials: WCC and UMW! The mighty, mighty UMW!” (Reminded me of Texas Sen. John Whitmire’s statement:” The UMW are powerful women and you want them on your side.”)
As for the business: We elected four new Board members. Cynthia Rives, Central TX Conf; Lynn Baker, AR Conf; Stacie Hawkins, TX Conf; and Daryl Junes-Joe, NM Conf.
And our bishop and his wife attended, along with two others. One said, “Once I attended a UMW meeting—and church broke out!”!