WELCA President Jennifer Michael gave this address to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly gathered in Pittsburg, PA this past August. (Beginning at 03:23:00 in Plenary Nine)
Hello everyone… My name is Jenny Michael and as president of Women of the ELCA, I bring you greetings on behalf of our churchwide executive board, our executive director, Linda Post-Bushkofsky, our churchwide staff and the over 250,000 active participants of Women of the ELCA.
Some of you may be familiar with who we are as an organization… but I think that there are also a number of you who are unaware of what a valuable partner that Women of the ELCA continues to be for this church. I heard from a friend this week who said that one of the voting members from her synod posted a remark about the gift you received from the Women of the ELCA… saying that he didn’t even know who we were… Well, I am here to answer that very question!
If you read our Purpose Statement, then you will know that we are a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship through Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And each day we strive to make connections with women that will strengthen their gifts for leadership and service.
As an independent and totally self-funded organization, Women of the ELCA publishes many free downloadable faith resources each year used by small groups and congregations; we provide training and support for racial justice advocacy and we support many ecumenical efforts to eliminate poverty and hunger; and as an organization we sponsor special events that provide fellowship, renewal and spiritual growth for women.
And before I go on… I need one minute to give you a little infomercial about one of the events that is just on the horizon for Women of the ELCA… It is our 9th Triennial Convention and Gathering in Charlotte, NC in July 2014. If you have never experienced this event, then you will just have to trust me! It is without question the absolute best place for a Lutheran woman to be… There are enriching workshops and bible study and there are soul-stirring worship moments where you can listen to the collective voices of over 2000 Lutheran women singing their praises to God! And the speakers… well, let me just say that in 2011, we hosted Leymah Gbowee just before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And in 2008, a certain female bishop from Northeastern Ohio gave such a rousing sermon during closing worship that brought us all to a standing ovation! With that kind of track record, I imagine that our upcoming speakers are wondering just what God has in store for them after they speak at the Triennial Gathering!
So, please mark your calendars and make plans to join us from Thursday, July 24th through Sunday, July 27th in Charlotte, North Carolina for the 9th Triennial Gathering of Women of the ELCA.
Okay, so that was the infomercial part… and a good one… but still, back to that question of just who are we as Women of the ELCA?
To some of you, we are only that ladies knitting group that meets every Tuesday at 10AM… to some of you, we are only the hands that prepare the funeral dinners and make sure the kitchens are well stocked…
But to me, we are also the women’s circle group from Western North Dakota who decided to begin a prison quilt ministry. Knowing that everyone can uncover a heart for service, these women go once a month to the prison with their sewing machines and donated material… and they sew quilts together with female prisoners that are then donated to Lutheran World Relief and in the process help these women to connect back a portion of their own humanity. We are social advocates…
To me, we are the first organization in the ELCA to have a smartphone app with Daily Grace and the first in the ELCA to provide a digital tablet app of our magazine Gather … which I’ve been told you all have been enjoying on your notebooks this week. You’re welcome! We are visionaries…
To me, we are those delicious cookies that you have been enjoying all week… Now I know I can get an “AMEN” on that one! You may not know this, but all of these cookies have been provided the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synodical Women’s Organization… when the call was sent out, we were there! We are hospitality…
And then again, to me… Women of the ELCA is a sisterhood where we are in deep relationship with one another… an organization that can provide comfort and support through Facebook to a recent widow… we are that community that nurtures and empowers a young woman of color to serve on a synodical board… and to me, Women of the ELCA has been a transformational force in my own spiritual life, helping me to recognize a call to public ministry. We are spiritual change agents…
So you ask, “Just who are the Women of the ELCA?” I say we are ground-breaking, justice-preaching, soul-giving women who are vital partners in the ministry of this church!
In the past 25 years, we have:
- Supported and sustained over 7,000 congregational units
- Won over 150 awards for excellence for resources, content, programming and publications produced by Women of the ELCA.
- Provided over $500,000 in scholarships to Lutheran women
- Given over $3.5 million in grants to ministries both internationally and here at home
- And in the past 25 years, as an independent and totally self-funded organization we have contributed more than $16 million toward the ongoing ministries of the ELCA.
This is who we are as Women of the ELCA… We ARE that place in the church that provides the space and opportunity for connections of purpose and faith to happen. Please consider what your relationship to Women of the ELCA might be in the coming year… and how you can add your voice to this community to see what we can do together!