Caption: Keynote Speaker Kenya Roberts, left, gifts pink crosses during the installation of new officer positions at the UMW annual meeting.

Story by Gary Carter & Ginny Sorenson | Photos by Ginny Sorenson and Sara Culp

Justice. Mercy. Basic tenants of Methodism. And it was justice and mercy for all that took center stage for the United Methodist Women’s Pacific Northwest Conference annual meeting at Vancouver First United Methodist Church Oct. 12 and 13.

Workshops covered topics such as immigration, economic inequality, climate justice, and “A Way Forward.”

Bev Thomas, United Methodist Women (UMW) president of Vancouver First, said, “It is so great that UMW is still uniting women for mission with emphasis on other areas of social justice.”

As participants workshopped through the various social justice issues, the topic of immigration justice rose to the forefront. With the reading of, “Today is the day God welcomes the immigrant strangers, values the vulnerable, advocates a just immigration policy, so shall we,” immigration justice was deemed the social action priority for 2019. As more than 11 million undocumented immigrants face uncertain futures, 800,000 young Dreamers fear possible termination of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals. These travelers came seeking economic survival and safety from oppression and violence. Congressional inaction, racial prejudice, and misconceptions are barriers to just immigration policies.

The revelry of the weekend hit its stride as a dinner theater celebrated UMW’s 150 years in the PNW with a melodrama. The annual Parade of Banners featured, for the first time, the Crest to Coast and Sea-Tac Missional District banners. Vancouver First Pastor Jon Short invoked Methodist founder John Wesley in his address to the group, as each course of the dinner brought a different scene featuring United Methodist Women “traveling through time” from the UMW’s past 150 years in the Pacific Northwest.

Throughout the play, the legacy of the former Seattle, Tacoma, and Vancouver districts were revisited. Dressed in period clothes, they told the story of an undercover quilt. One that featured panels from the PNW districts and was lost over time decades ago, only to find its way back to the UMW through quite a circuitous route. Young women in costume showed the “power of the bold” throughout the UMW’s history.

“I think what made [the event] special was that there were several women who have been officers together over the years, who haven’t seen each other for several years due to locations.” said Joan Hackett.
Pictured from back left: Joan Hackett (Van. Pres., 1994-1998) Deb Avery (Van. Pres., 1984-86 & 2004-06) Eulalie Short (Conf. Pres., 1985-89) Olive Ann Becker (Van. Pres., 1976-80) Dorothy Hallett (Van. Pres., 1980-84).
Legacy dinner coordinator Joan Hackett, while dressed as a time traveling UMW representative from the 1800s, spoke of the social justice advances made in those 150 years offering, “we have done so much, but are looking toward our future.” She pointed to the advances in civil rights, Brown vs. the Board of Education, the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and talked about the UMW’s focus on social justice issues. “There’s so much we have done, but we are looking forward to the future.” She said the discussion now is “where are we going to start talking to our leaders? Where are we going to put our social actions for this year?”

Jan Cantrell, secretary of program resources for the UMW in the Pacific Northwest Conference, said “It was great seeing everything come together as a combination of our memories,” this was her main takeaway from the 150th anniversary celebration.

Retiring officers were recognized as a new slate was sworn in for 2018-19. Ja net’ Crouse will serve as president, Linda Key as vice president, Melva Lohstroh as secretary, and Kendra Smith as treasurer.

Finishing a day of workshops, discussions and meetings, participants gathered for a keynote address from Kenya Roberts, executive for Development Management for UMW National. Kenya has a combined 13 years’ experience working with local and international non-profits and foundations in development. She works closely with UMW members around the country building the future of the organization through the Legacy Fund Endowment.

As Roberts praised God for calling us into changing seasons of passionate work and quiet solitude, she compared that to autumn’s blazing color and winter’s stark silhouette. She reminded UMW women that “our purpose is to know God. To experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ. To develop a creative, supportive fellowship and to expand concepts of mission through participation in global ministries of the church.”

Gary Carter is a former writer and editor for newspaper, magazine and television news. He is currently Facilities and Program Administrator for Vancouver First United Methodist Church.

Ginny Sorenson is the Administration Secretary for Vancouver First United Methodist Church and recent graduate of Clark College School of Communications.

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