By: Marilyn Dyer, President, Upstate New York Synod Women of the ELCA
A glorious weekend in the Adirondacks saw 100 women from across upstate New York gather together at Camp of the Woods, Speculator, New York, for their 26th Annual Convention. Themed “Let Justice Flow,” the keynote, workshops, songs and worship focused on how to act upon your faith in bringing justice to the world.
Keynote speaker, Inez Torres Davis, Director for Justice for the Churchwide Office (CWO) of Women of the ELCA, offered insights into our perceptions of a fair and just society which left us moved and challenged to look into our hearts and lives to see where we might be acting in a racially insensitive manner without even knowing it. Her workshop, “At the Crossroads: The Intersection of Oppressions,” helped attendees understand that for many women sexism coupled with racism, classism, anti-feminism, homophobia, lack of education, religious intolerance or any other bias, makes it that much harder for them to break free from the constraints that prevent them from living life to the fullest. Inez made us laugh, feel uncomfortable, and eager to engage our synodical Racial Justice Advocacy Team to help us wrangle with and move forward in our understanding of these issues.
Susan Drane, CWO Board Representative from Mesa, Arizona, spoke to us about all the ways in which Women of the ELCA assists other women to reach their goals. She explained the vast array of resources available for Bible study, personal and group spiritual growth, good stewardship, advocacy, mission and many other topics that are available to congregational units. She helped us understand how our offerings to the CWO are paid forward through scholarships, grants, overseas missions, world hunger, disaster relief, and programs worldwide through which women and girls are assisted in their struggles. Pastor Gail Wolling shared that, during her time at seminary, she had been the beneficiary of a $1,000 grant from Women of the ELCA which had helped her get through some lean financial times.
Other workshops included one on Stephen Ministry led by Mary Tennerman, St. Timothy, Troy; Advocate, Me? led by Susan Drane, CWO Board Rep; Fill It to the Brim with Justice- Lutheran Coffee Hour and Fair Trade led by Carole and Ed Grove, Zion, New Hartford; Building Schools in Zambia led by Pr. Gail Wolling, Luther Memorial, Syracuse; and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Attending Triennial Convention led by Karen Settembre, St. Michael’s, Camillus.
Ten women got up very early on Saturday morning to walk a 5K route for the benefit of Pastor Wolling’s school projects in Zambia. Through pledges they raised $675 for Pr. Gail to use for school construction or other needs. There was afternoon free time to enjoy the beautiful lakeside camp or enjoy hands-on activities such as tying quilts (Grace, Oswego), learning how to make Little Dresses and Britches (Faith, Troy), dabble in the arts with a stamping project (Megan Tennermann), or enjoy the SERRV Sale (Betsy Liljeberg, St. John/St. Mark, Canajoharie). There was lots of foot-stomping on Saturday night as the women enjoyed Stone Soup – the band featuring Betsy’s own Pete Liljeberg. Great music and great fun!
Morning prayer, led by Phyllis Keeler, Emanuel, Stuyvesant Falls, and evening prayer, led by Susan Nalle, Grace, Oswego, gave us the perfect beginning and end to each day – by praying first and last! Part of each day included singing with Jan Walz, Our Redeemer, Scotia, and Sarah Fisher, St. Peter, Malta, as we learned about the history of some of our favorite hymns and sang them! So interesting and what beautiful music a room full of Lutheran ladies can make! Our Chaplain, Sandy Shear, AIM from the Otsego County Lutheran Parish, led our Saturday morning Bible study based on our theme verse, Micah 6:8, What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.
Sunday morning worship featured Clowns at the Cross from St. Timothy’s, Troy, who led us in a warm, funny, moving worship celebration featuring a “camp” theme complete with the camper who cried both arriving and leaving! By the way, Bishop Marie looks great with big red lipstick circles on her cheeks, forehead, and nose! I wonder if she was able to get those off before her afternoon installation service! What a great ministry which helps us see worship and the love of Jesus through different eyes.
We were delighted to have with us 22 first time attendees, 7 scholarship winners, and several guests from the Slovak-Zion Synod and Wesleyan churches. As you can see, it took a team of women from all over the synod to put the convention together. We have such talented and willing workers who want to share the Good News in sisterhood and love.
Next year’s convention will be held in Syracuse, October 3-5, 2014, at the Best Western Carrier Circle with the theme of “Mission.” Watch this space for updates as they become available. Hope you’ll consider joining us for that event.
And don’t forget the Ninth Triennial Convention and Gathering, “Of Many Generations,” July 21-27, 2014, in Charlotte, NC. It’s the closest it will ever be to Upstate NY and we hope to put together a large delegation! Go to www.welcatg.org for all the info! Registration has already begun – register early to get the best hotel rooms.
If you have any questions about Upstate NY Women of the ELCA, would like information about starting a unit in your church, or would like me or one of your local board members to visit your congregation to learn more, please contact me. We would love to share all the wonderful things that are Women of the ELCA with you.