First published in the Mennonite Church USA Convention newsletter, MPress in July 2011.
by Becca Kraybill of Goshen College & Eva Lapp of Bethany Christian
Over 100 women gathered for the biennial Mennonite Women USA dinner on Tuesday evening as their soprano voices lifted high above the bass voices of the Mennonite Men’s gathering drifting down the hall.
The main focus of the dinner was to introduce the Sister Care seminars, a program used by Mennonite Women USA that aims to validate the gifts of care and compassion that women bring to the church.
A typical session includes a lecture, discussion and group exercise that affirms that healthy care results from a healthy caretaker. At the end of each seminar, a woman shares her story of loss and grief, a personal story that may cover anything from the death of a spouse to the loss of a job. Meghan Good, the pastor of Albany Mennonite Church in Oregon, and Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, moderator-elect for Mennonite Church USA, spoke to the women about their experiences with Sister Care.
Good told about her journey from questioning her place in scripture as a woman to feeling empowered in God’s eyes.
“We serve a God who is in the business of overturning orders to serve just one person,” said Good.
Soto Albrecht spoke of her service in Colombia, South America, in which the hurt within one woman leader ultimately prevented her from healing others.
“Sister Care is about the power to heal and transform,” Soto Albrecht said. What is healed [within yourself] lets one reproduce healing to others.”
The Sister Care seminars are available for groups to order with a manual and handouts. Mennonite Women USA will be hosting a seminar called “Creating Circles of Solidarity” on Thursday from 7-8:30 p.m. in Room 326.
The dinner began with a surprise celebration for Rhoda Keener, who recently switched from her role as executive director to co-executive director. Keener served for 10 years on the organization and also recently celebrated her 60th birthday.
Ruth Lapp Guengerich, co-executive director, and Rhoda Charles, chair of board, surprised Keener with a photo collage entitled “60 Memories for 60 Years” and scrapbook album (friends and well-wishers are invited to add notes in the album, which is at the Mennonite Women booth). Guengerich and Charles also revealed a financial boost to the endowment fund organized by Keener. They gathered $12,097.20 in contributions, double the original dream of $6,000.
About 200 people received invitations to contribute to the endowment fund, intended to create financial stability for Mennonite Women USA programs such as Sister Care, International Women’s Fund, Timbrel and Sister-Link.
“It’s been a privilege to work and serve the women of the Mennonite church,” said Keener. “I feel deeply honored and humbled.”