There was a point at which I feared the North America Area Seminar would not take place. How very glad I am that it did! Area President Dr Sandra Gadson, Area Vice President Dr Lois Grant-Hector and a hard-working support team ensured the Seminar was a success. Participants included women from five Units (African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal, United Methodist Women, and the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas) as well as three World Officers. The venue, the Hilton Chicago Northbrook Hotel was ideal for our purposes and the staff very helpful in accommodating us.
The Weaving Together Program enabled World and Area Officers and representatives from all but one of the Units to share news and concerns in a relaxed atmosphere with worship and warm fellowship. Again, the Ketso resource was effective in helping us set priorities for the Area:
- Engaging effectively with the Church leadership
- Attracting younger women to get involved in the World Federation
- Encouraging advocacy for social justice issues.
Practical actions were identified to help reach these goals.
The Seminar itself used the theme ‘Chosen People: Called to Proclaim’ and, during the first evening, each Unit sharing something of their own history. This was particularly helpful for those who were first-timers at such an event as it set each Unit in context and helped us understand the background for each one. In addition, a fine display provided by the Archivist Judith Siaba (and former Archivist Emmy Lou John) highlighted our own Federation history.
Three excellent bible studies were led by a minister from the AMEZ church, Rev Charlrean Mapson. She spoke about the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well and her evangelical message to the villagers (John 4), the call and response of the first disciples (Luke 5) and the call and proclamation ministry of Saul/Paul (1Timothy 1 and Colossians 1:27). In each study we were shown how sensitive conversation can lead on to personal transformation and proclamation to others of the good news about Christ.
There were four workshops on offer during the Seminar, led very ably by women from within the Area, each one focusing on a Sustainable Development Goal.
SDG 4 Quality Education led by Mrs Elaine Bailey Johnson (AME)
SDG 5 Gender Equality – Ms Elnora Hamb (CME)
SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy – Ms Elena Bettis (Communications Director, Faith in Place)
SDG 14 Life below water – Dr Lois Grant-Hector (MCCA)
World Officers were given ample time to share their reports. It was a delight to hear Dr Brenda Smith, Federation’s official representative at the United Nations in New York, invite us to visit her in the UN HQ and to hear her summary of the work done by the UN on wide-ranging global issues.
As we prayed for the people of the Bahamas, so severely devastated by Hurricane Dorian, we rejoiced that $603 would be sent to the MCCA from this Seminar to help with the relief effort. We were reminded that October is Breast Cancer awareness month, and heard several testimonies of successful treatments and were urged to get a regular mammogram test.
In the closing worship we were inspired by a litany on Violence against Women in the Church. Each region was represented by a jug of water – symbolising the tears of women affected by injustice, violence, rape and discrimination. We were reminded that SILENCE IS NOT SPIRITUAL. We must speak out – proclaim that violence against women is unacceptable. Rev Ruby Miles (AMEZ) preached and presided at our communion service. Her sermon title was ‘The Spotlight is on you’ as she spoke on 1 Peter 2:9 – the source of our current theme.