Tag Archives: Mennonite Women USA

Women Meet to Tell Their Sacred Stories

By Anne M. Yoder, Coordinator, EDC/FMC Sistering Committee
On March 12, over 35 women met together for a Day Apart, held at Towamencin Mennonite Church. Attendees came from various Mennonite churches in Eastern District and Franconia Mennonite Conferences. A large group coming from Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, a South Philadelphia congregation that is made up primarily of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and Latin America.

This gathering was a bilingual retreat that gave the oSistering1pportunity to reflect on the theme “Sistering for Life.” The term “sistering” refers to a practice in carpentry in which structural repairs are made by attaching new wood beams to weak (sagging, cracked or twisted) joists to make the original stronger. All of us are strong at times and can help those who are weak; all of us find it difficult to make it on our own at times and need others to support us. Sistering is a gift that we embody as God’s women who are following Jesus throughout our lives.

The program’s theme was fleshed out in various ways. Songs were led in Spanish and English by a team from Centro de Alabanza and by Dorothy Beidler from Norristown New Life. A meditation was given by Ana Rosa Hernandez, a member at Centro de Alabanza, on Proverbs 17:17 (“A friend loves at all times, and a [sister] is born for a time of adversity.”) and Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”) Four women — Linda Esh, Dania Hernandez, and Ligia Canavan, from Centro de Alabanza, and Jenny Duskey of Ambler Mennonite – were designated to tell a story of being sistered. From them came accounts of loss, sexual abuse, stepping into unknown territory during a move, and finding faith in the midst of struggle, along with the spiritual, emotional and physical help they found along the way.

Sistering3A children’s story, “Four Feet, Two Sandals”, was read to illustrate how something as simple as sharing a pair of sandals at a refugee camp can build sisterhood. Leticia Cortes, pastor at Centro de Alabanza, led us in activities that required teamwork and seeing how we felt in each other’s shoes. A sandal was given to each participant to decorate and to write a message on; these were then exchanged with another woman, with whom a prayer and blessing were shared.

Throughout the day we sat in table groups getting to know six or seven other women in a deeper way as we reflected together on our experiences of being sistered by Jesus and by girls/women at different stages of our lives. Women who could interpret between Spanish and English were each assigned to a table so that all of us could understand each other.

Sistering4I felt great joy in spending time with the women who gathered on March 12th. Not knowing Spanish, I had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be in the minority for once, but also to listen to a beautifully expressive language. Hearing the stories of women often moved me to tears and to laughter, and I marveled at the deep, and often exuberant faith that has emerged in spite of, or perhaps because of, difficult circumstances in their lives. Each year, this event challenges my faith journey and stretches my world-view. The Holy Spirit is alive and well and very evident as we meet. It is a privilege to take part in creating a holy space for this gathering to happen and to take part in it.

The Sistering Committee is working to hold annual gatherings like this and are planning for another one in 2017 Keep watch for announcements about it!

The Sistering Committee is especially grateful to Mike Clemmer and his team at Towamencin Mennonite Church for allowing us to use their facility and giving so much help in bringing our event to fruition. And I, Anne Yoder, want to thank the other members of the Sistering Committee for their wisdom and prayers and efforts: Marta Castillo, pastor at Norristown New Life, Leticia Cortes, pastor at Centro de Alabanza, and Doris Diener, of Franconia Mennonite Church.

The Sistering Committee represents Mennonite Women USA for eastern Pennsylvania (and the conferences’ outlying congregations) and looks forward to serving the women of our area. If you are interested in serving on the committee, please contact Anne Yoder at ayoder1@swarthmore.edu.

Reflections on “All You Need is Love”

All You Need is Love
In worship we were led to dance, singing “Walk into the holy fire, step into the holy flame.” Photo by Nekeisha Alexis-Baker/AMBS

by Diane Bleam, Bally congregation

A lot has changed since I last attended a Women Doing Theology Conference in Bluffton, Ohio in 1994.  I was excited to attend “Anabaptist Women Doing Theology Conference: All You Need is Love” in Leesburg, VA on February 20-22 for some theological stimulation as well as to observe how young women are experiencing theology in the church today.

The most refreshing aspect of this conference for me was sharing with women from other ethnic groups, hearing their experiences, joys, and struggles as women leaders in the church.  As one of the older attendees, most of whom were young women, I was encouraged by the energy and competency of many women and by their ability to step out and take risks.

I found that racial and ethnic differences are still an issue, although the issues are sometimes more subtle as we have become more sensitized to the long-standing oppression of many women.  I was reminded how very difficult it is to overcome historical assumptions, whether related to gender, ethnic, or sexuality biases.

The women I met were strong women, women willing to take risks, while at the same time giving and receiving affirmation and appreciation, as evidenced by many public expressions of thanks and praise of work well done.  It reminded me of the difference between a gathering led by men, with brief acknowledgements of thanks (maybe), and a women’s banquet, where everyone gets flowers.  Not that one is necessarily better than another, just different.

While I didn’t notice much anger, I did notice a lot of determination.  There was also grief and joy; many of us shed tears at different times.  There were calls for justice in the face of any kind of oppression, and calls for solidarity among women.  While I was sometimes uncomfortable being with so many women because I’ve spent most of my public ministry working with men, it was refreshing to see women learning from one another and being strong supports to one another.

Women being created in the image of God inspired rich experiences of worship and rituals.  God’s immanence was emphasized as we sought to find God’s presence within ourselves.

If the conference schedule was an indication, much is expected by and from women today.  I returned from the Conference exhausted, missing my own youthfulness, while at the same time feeling that these young women are well-prepared to go beyond those who came before.  I’m excited to see where they take us.

Beauty for Brokenness: Women’s Ministry

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Women from all over eastern Pennsylvania met in March of last year for SisterCare. Photo by Emily Ralph.

by Lynne Allebach, Franconia & Eastern District Women’s Committee

The Women’s Committee of Eastern District & Franconia Conferences is planning a morning apart for women in June with a focus on wholeness and healing.

In March of last year, 130 women attended the Sister Care Seminar held by Mennonite Women USA at Souderton Mennonite Church. Attendees were enthusiastic about the teaching on caring for self and others and asked for continuing opportunities to explore these topics and to encourage one another on the local level.

In answer to this call, the Eastern District & Franconia Conferences Women’s Committee has formed, and is holding its first event “Beauty for Brokenness:  Growing toward Wholeness.”  This event will focus on how women may identify areas of brokenness in their lives and move toward the wholeness God intends for us all. This is the first of what we hope will be many chances for women of Eastern District and Franconia Conferences to learn together, share our stories and wisdom with one another, and support each other.

In a fun play-act, Vicki Cook collapses in frustration after Rhoda Keener fails to follow the principles of active listening.  Photo by Gay Brunt Miller.
Last year’s SisterCare seminar focused on women ministering to other women. Photo by Gay Brunt Miller.

Pastor Angela Moyer, from Ripple Allentown, will present on recovery from those things that keep us from growth toward wholeness. Sister Mary Julia McKenzie, chaplain for Penn Foundation’s Recovery Center, will share about her experience of working with women recovering from mental health and addiction issues.  There will be music, speakers telling their personal stories of overcoming trauma, and opportunities to share in small group settings.  Light refreshments will be served.  No child care will be available during this event. A $10 fee will be charged for those who can afford it.

The Eastern District & Franconia Conferences Women’s Committee is made up of Lynne Allebach, Joyce Hunsberger, and Anne Yoder (Coordinator) and operates in cooperation with Mennonite Women USA. The committee is actively looking for additional members.

Mark your calendar for Saturday, June 1, 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, at Salford Mennonite Church, Harleysville, PA.  To register, go to women.franconiaconference.org.