“We are a community of women,” explains Julia Paradine-Rice, as she talks about the purpose of UMW, now United Women in Faith.
Michigan United Women in Faith
United Methodist Women shall be a community of women whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church.
At each meeting of United Methodist Women (local, district, conference, national) we recite these words together. This is our PURPOSE, it reminds us, centers us, and inspires us to stay focused on who we are and who we have been for over 150 years. So, who are we?
We are a community of women.
We are a community of women whose purpose is to know God. UMW has deep roots in spiritual education. Our Reading Program offers a carefully curated selection of books to deepen our faith, develop our leadership skills, and hear stories of social action. Every year our Conference UMW offers a transformational education opportunity at Mission u with biblical and timely studies to inspire individual and collective spiritual growth. We study and learn together to better know God and live into his plans for us.
We are a community of women who experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ. I recently asked our Michigan Conference UMW Leadership Team what this statement means to them. Each response was unique, as unique as each UMW, but many mentioned the historical lack of freedom that women have experienced in the world and in the church. United Methodist Women has worked for over 150 years to change this, and through UMW we experience freedom – to act, think and speak – as whole persons – intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, physically, professionally – through the love and acceptance demonstrated to us by Jesus Christ.
We are a community of women who develop a creative, supportive, fellowship. This is what drew my mother to UMW in 1959. She was a young mother with two small children, a husband who owned his own business and worked long hours, and she was new to the community and to the church. She was invited to join a UMW circle, and she jumped at the chance. Even if a babysitter needed to be hired for the evening, she did not miss the monthly gathering of her UMW circle. These women became her life-long friends, praying for and supporting each other through all the joys and challenges in their lives – even today in their 80s and 90s they remain a supportive, community of women.
We are a community of women who are connected in mission not just locally, but globally. We are committed to supporting local mission through our local units in our local communities, and while it is tempting to focus just on local mission, our strength does not lie there. Our strength is in our connections, throughout our district, conference and around the world, to expand concepts of global mission. In 1869, eight women laid this groundwork, building a global community of women to not just fund two female missionaries to travel to India but to still – 153 years later, in 2022 – continue to support that mission project and many, many more in the US and around the world. This is our strength, our God-given superpower!
We are a global community of women, remaining steadfast and connected to our PURPOSE.
Our community of women steps into 2022 with a feeling of anticipation. We are anticipating a return to in-person meetings and events following an almost two-year global pandemic. We are anticipating changes in the United Methodist Church, but these changes do not change our PURPOSE, we can still be UMW no matter what changes occur in our local church. We are anticipating changes through a rebranding and restructuring of United Methodist Women that was announced on March 3, changing our name to United Women in Faith and opening our community of women to even more women who want to join through a commitment to our PURPOSE.
All this anticipation and change can be scary, or it can be exciting. Exciting because God is and will continue working through us when we put our faith, hope, and love into action together as a community of women. Let us step forward into this exciting new year with a new name and continue living our Purpose!