As a PWP (Presbyterian Women of the Presbytery) Moderator, I had the responsibility of educating, informing and facilitating attendance at the Gathering. Having had the experience of attending the inspirational 2000 Jubilee Gathering, I wanted to encourage participation. This year, as a Voting Representative, I had the duties of previewing the business book, arriving one day early for training, attending the business meeting, conversation groups, the luncheons with Global Partners, and GAC (General Assembly Council) members, and contributing my wisdom and understanding by listening, receiving new information and input from other PWs and voting. As a Daily Horizons Reporter for Synod of South Atlantic, I was asked to collect and submit by a deadline information collected through interviews and note-taking during the business meeting. I also photographed the business meeting procedures, and submitted these to the editor, who actually used one of them, which was not credited to me. As a PW active at the congregational, presbytery, synod and churchwide levels, I got to connect and re-connect with PW from across the levels and geography of the PC(USA). As a member of a group of seven (up from two) women from my church, I got to form tighter bonds of love. As a Bible study student and teacher, it was a blessing to meet and listen to Janice Catron for the second time and got reacquainted with Sue Westfall, this time with her two sisters and mother. As a PW “Resourcer” for my congregation and Presbytery, I needed to visit the displays, exhibits, and Resource Center, to glean and purchase necessary and useful information. Lastly, even though I had anticipated that the topics of Racism and Antiracism, Globalization and HIV/AIDS, and War and Peace would bring to our ears sermons uncomfortable to hear, I grew in understanding of our call to ministry to the world.
It seems like we need the three years between the churchwide gatherings to process what we have encountered and to adequately prepare for the next one, not to mention doing all the other PW “work” at our local, presbytery and synod levels. This Gathering, I was glad to hear John Detterick, Executive Director, and other members of the General Assembly Council of the PC(USA), telling us at the Churchwide Gathering in the large hall, again in the business meeting and also in small “chats” in the great room, how much they all appreciate the financial and leadership roles of PW within the PC(USA).
This Gathering, we got a new resource called “Building An Inclusive, Caring Community through Dialogue.” It contains the structured guidelines for inter-racial small group interactions. PW provides leadership development primarily through its resources. Unzu Lee, PW’s Associate for Leadership Development, proudly introduced the Sigimsae traditional Korean drumming ensemble as lay women from the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea. These women performed for us throughout the four-day event. Their participation provides me with renewed hope for the leadership of our organization, as I know that Korean Presbyterians feel themselves not only indebted to our missionaries for the gospel message but also now responsible to us for their witness of the gospel. As a friend, Jae-Ho Kim once old me, “the Korean Presbyterian church is alive and I am a product of that vibrant faith.”
We are concerned with reduced mission giving and reduced participation at this year’s Gathering. Women have less time today for full-time PW work. Finding time to participate is harder than giving money, but each is suffering. Former Moderator Karen Fritsch said “Presbyterian Women must address this issue if we desire to be the prophetic voice and developer of women in leadership for the future of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” Our former Moderator for Mission Relationships, Ann McFarlane, said “A wonderful future for Presbyterian Women lies ahead. The challenge is to find new ways to work together so that everyone is included around the table, diversity is seen as a gift, and there are no longer any strangers.” And former Moderator for Justice and Peace Concerns, Gerry Tayler, wrote in her report, “As a Presbyterian for more than 50 years and a PW for more than 40 (having been both a member of United Presbyterian Women and also Women of the Church), I have a great love for our organization. We are the ongoing support of the denomination and the ones who have been and continue to be on the leading edge of justice and mission advocacy.” Their leadership model culminating in our Gathering has helped me to examine my assumptions and perceptions by having to adjust to communication styles different from what I have been accustomed, having to take on ever greater and new responsibilities, and having to tolerate ambiguity without making judgments as to its rightness or wrongness. This is how PW mobilizes women to do God’s work, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. This is why the PW Churchwide Gathering is such a jubilant meeting of women answering God’s call.
I have a lot of pictures of the women at the Gathering, many including me, when I asked someone else to snap the picture. The pictures tell a story. The women are beautiful, even though we are aging. We are not paying attention to the distractions of our infirmities and complaints. We realize how we are blessed. We are gladdened by this opportunity to be the Church together in one place, full of God’s spirit and hearing His call anew to ministry in the broken and sinful world. So many of these women have been PW for so long, in so many leadership roles, and have experienced so many times, the joys of this reunion, the creation of the Gathering, and the acceptance of always learning more about Jesus each time, that this is a very special time and place for all of us. We must continue to do it.
I am praying that all of us who attended the 2003 PW Churchwide Gathering will appreciate the opportunity for leadership in building the inclusive, caring community. I hope we will make ourselves truly listen to each other, to allow these messages to inform our faith, and to honor our differences as well as what we have in common, so that together we can work toward God’s vision for His people. This is what I have learned from Presbyterian Women during the past five years since I have been a member. I am very thankful for each of the PW whom I have met and known.