#DoneWishing

This article by Marlene Bogard was originally published in Summer 2018 Timbrel. Marlene will conclude her time with Mennonite Women USA July 31, 2018.

I wish I had known about personal boundaries as a young girl. I wish I had constructed my own space bubble. I wish I had been coached on my Circle of Grace. I wish…

As a second grader, my head was pushed against the rough brick wall of our school. Howard mushed his face into me and pressed his lips against mine. I was a skinny seven- year-old and this incident happened on the playground during recess.  It was not OK. A classmate of mine had decided to kiss me, forcefully.  Not OK. I do not remember reporting to my teacher or my mother. Perhaps I did.

Today I wonder, what would your daughters or nieces or granddaughters do or say if that happened to them? Would they be sufficiently trained and empowered to push away, to yell no, and to report the assault?

In almost every decade of my life, I have experienced harassment, inappropriate touch, unwanted sexualized language and jokes. #youtoo?

When the #metoo movement became prominent, I decided to  recite all the ways  I experienced harassment while my husband and I were on a road trip. I began with the recess incident and carried on to the present. At various points in my monologue, he exclaimed, “Really?” and “Wow!” and then, “There’s more?”

“Yes, “I nodded, “All true.”

And I am not alone. I have minimized or shaken off some of these instances over the years, even chalking them up to my clothing selection or my vivacious personality. I have even said the dreaded, “Boys will be boys, and men will be men.” I am done with that kind of reasoning. It was never my fault. I did not ask for it.  I may have not known how to respond, but I will not bear the responsibility of men and boys acting inappropriately.

I wish I had known about personal boundaries as a teenager. The language of boundaries, of  sense of self, of empowerment was absent. No one (church, parent, school) offered advice or guidelines or about dating, about touch, about sexual activity.  Some things were communicated as taboo, but other than a little information about getting my period, there was a huge void. What did I do to fill that void? Act on impulse, surrender to those more powerful, get caught off guard, be driven by some vague notion of morality?

More than you wanted to know? Too much information? I would wager a guess that most of you reading this have had similar or worse experiences while you were growing up.

Recently, our four-year-old grandson proclaimed, “I have a space bubble around me!” His dad explained how his preschool is teaching about a safety zone around each child. With pleasure, I quickly jumped up and invited him to do the Circle of Grace meditation and motions with me.

Circle of Grace is a Christian safe environment curriculum that helps to form and educate children and youth about the value of positive relationships with God and others.

I will be retiring from my position at the end of July. But not before I help lead an event that is designed to help girls and women understand and claim personal boundaries. Because I am #donewishing and we are now proactively empowering girls and women to understand, claim and proclaim their own personal boundaries. I hope to see you at: Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries.

Want to register for our summer event, Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries? Click here for more information!

Balancing Technology Use

Hear from Madalyn Metzger, Amy Gingerich, and Melody M. Pannell on faith and technology in our Three Women, Three Windows Timbrel column.

How do you use technology in your work? How do you use technology in your personal life? Are there any perceivable differences?

Metzger: In both my personal and professional life, I use technology to access and share information. The primary difference would be the type of information. Professionally, I use it for information related to Everence, marketing, financial services, and the various denominations that Everence relates to. Personally, I use it for social reasons and to receive news about current events.

Gingerich: My coworkers and I are constantly connected digitally, if not in person. With our staff spread out in different locations, we connect throughout the day on various electronic platforms and try to utilize video connections as much as possible. In my personal life, I try to limit how much I use my phone or social media. As a parent, I do not want my kids to see me on my phone checking Facebook or email, so I try to keep it to a minimum when my children are awake.

Pannell: As an educator, I use technology for email correspondence, learning management systems, shared documents, video conference meetings and educational webinars. In my personal life, I use social media for  “self-help” education, entertainment, communication with friends and family and engaging in hobbies. At work, my focus is more external as I communicate with and give my attention to others. In my personal life, I use social media in solitude and my focus is more internal.

How does technology affect your faith formation?

Metzger:  Technology gives me access to discussions and ideas around faith that I may not have been part of on a regular basis without it. But, it’s also easy to participate only in discussions about faith that I agree with, which has the potential to stifle faith formation, rather than grow it.

Gingerich: About 15 years ago when people started to subscribe via email to daily devotionals or inspirational thoughts, everyone thought it was great. But I sense that this era has waned. In terms of personal spiritual development, people are going back to print – whether physical Bibles or printed devotionals. There’s something about holding printed words in my hands that lets me engage more deeply than the skimming I would do if I were reading on my phone. Technology provides instant accessibility, which is not always helpful to me in my faith formation.

Pannell: Technology gives me access to “toolkits” to assess my spiritual growth, provides me with  avenues to engage in mentorship and creates platforms in which I can share my faith journey with others. I see these connections and resources as positive influences on my faith formation.

How does technology connect us as a church? How does it distract us?

Metzger: I think technology serves an important role in connecting us as a body of Christ. It gives us the ability to touch parts of the church that we may not be as naturally connected with (geographically, theologically, racially, ethnically, economically, etc.), which I believe is an important way for us to grow and learn as the body of Christ together. On the other hand, technology can distract us. It’s too easy to jump on the bandwagon when someone posts something, rather than enter into a thoughtful discernment about a topic. It’s also too easy for us to stay in our own theological bubbles, and only interact with others who think the same theologically as we do.

Gingerich: Technology can make us feel connected to others in our congregations but I sometimes wonder if we feel more connected than we actually are. Am I really getting to know someone in my congregation and taking time to engage with them or am I getting to know their Facebook or Instagram profile?

Pannell: Technology has  the potential to connect us as a church in meaningful ways. With the use of technology as a “strategic tool” for church growth and congregational engagement, church leaders can use apps with the intention of encouraging enthusiastic giving, expanding audience participation and creating exciting visual examples of Christian Discipleship and Faith Formation. If utilized in a positive manner, engaging in an online church community creates safe and brave spaces where people can continue and embrace conversations about the challenges and joys of faith formation and com-munity outside of the walls of the church or a set schedule of sanctioned services. However, the power of technology with-in the church can definitely distract us from prioritizing face-to-face relationships and communication skills. Technology lends itself to easily enabling us to form a false sense of connection with one another. When social media, email or online church services take the place of authentic, accountable faith formation with a body of believers, we may be settling for an easy distraction from the process of wrestling with what it means to be in relationship with Christ and the ebb and flow of growing towards spiritual maturity.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Timbrel, Faith Formation in the Digital Age. To subscribe to Timbrel, click here.

Carrying our message internationally

Rhoda Keener is the Sister Care director for Mennonite Women USA and a former MW USA executive director. She lives in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania with her husband Bob. Rhoda is the co-editor of She Has Done a Good Thing: Mennonite Women Leaders Tell Their Stories.

I remember receiving an email from Jana Oesch in 2010 asking me to speak at a women’s retreat in Idaho. I wrote back saying, “The speaking I am doing right now is Sister Care. Would you like to host a Sister Care seminar?” A year later Carolyn Heggen and I led our first seminar together in Caldwell, Idaho. One email can change so much.

I am often amazed as I work from my home in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, that I am communicating with people all over the world. I can correspond via email with Elisabeth Kunjam in India, Milka Rindzinski in Uruguay, Sun Ju Moon in South Korea, Pamela Obonde in Kenya, or Tran Diep in Vietnam.  Without the Internet, I don’t know how Sister Care International could exist and grow.

The Latin American Sister Care seminars began through Carolyn Heggen’s personal friendship with Olga Piedrasanta, an instructor at SEMILLA, and then continued with assistance from Linda Shelly of Mennonite Mission Network. Linda’s relationships with the women leaders in Central and South America enabled her to guide the planning of another nine seminars.

When Carolyn and I arrived in Havana in late January of 2018, our host, Midiam Lobaina from the Cuban Council of Churches, asked if we needed a projector and screen for our presentations. When we said, “No, we are quite low tech,” she breathed a sigh of relief. It is the photos that we share on Facebook and other social media platforms that connect the Sister Care ministries around the world.

After teaching an Enrichment seminar in Bogota last spring attended by women from five countries, I received an email from Linda Shelly sharing what women in Rumococha, Peru are doing with the Sister Care material.  Cielo Arguelo attended the Bogota seminar; then taught women and children in Rumococha that they are beloved daughters of God by creating a motto that says, “Soy una mujer amada por Dios” or “I am a beloved woman of God”.

A ministry is only as strong as the love and trust that form its base. Much can be built and sustained with long distance electronic communication, but there is no substitute for face-to-face conversations and time together.

Whatever form of communication we use, what remains important is that we know and believe we are beloved daughters of God.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Timbrel, Faith Formation in the Digital Age. To subscribe to Timbrel, click here.

24/7/365

Marlene Harder Bogard is the Executive Director of Mennonite Women USA. She will retire in July 2018. Previously, she served as Minister of Christian Formation and Resource Library Director for the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA for 25 years while living in Newton, Kansas. Marlene cares deeply about Christian faith formation in all stages of life and is drawn to help folks develop ways of  connecting with God in creative and meaningful ways. Her background includes serving on the Dove’s Nest board, Spiritual Director training, and teaching youth ministry at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.

If you are holding Timbrel in your hands as you read this – congratulations, you enjoy reading on paper! If you are reading this on your phone or computer, thank you, you discovered it on our blog.

For the past 100 years, Mennonite Women has depended on printed materials to share our mission. Our history includes hand-written letters, newspaper articles, phone calls, paper mass mailings, events and magazines. As little as five years ago, our magazine, Timbrel was still considered our primary voice. Today, our social media networks are equally important – to network, share ministry highlights, promote coming events and draw attention to women’s visionary voices. Print was once prominent; now we have many channels through which we stay connected and strong. The times they are a-changing, and MW USA has to be continually on the lookout for ways of reimagining its witness in this digital age.

24/7/365  If you, like most people, have a smartphone, these numbers represent how often you have access to the Internet. Any hour of the day, any day of the week and any week of the year, we can be connected.
1,896  This is how many clicks MW USA received on our Centennial Resources web pages in the last year. Almost 2,000 people read a prayer or story, watched a video, downloaded art or graphics or used a drama.  Because we posted these resources online, anyone could access them with a computer 24/7/365. None of them were available in print form. It would have cost a fortune to print them and mail them.  Posting the resources on our website was a viable way to make them available.
3,420  This is how many people subscribe to Grapevine, our monthly newsletter. Out of 3,420 subscribers, 1,240 recipients open our newsletters within the first 24 hours of receiving it. Grapevine is not available in print, but you can print it yourself, or you can forward this newsletter to anyone or use any pieces for your social media posts, newsletters for your women’s group or congregation. We always need your help to share our resources.
6,437  One week in February, we reached this many Facebook users through posts about our summer event, Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries. This number reaches far beyond the scope of Timbrel.
258 And finally – the Blog:  Mennonite Women Voices.  The idea behind a blog is to post a story, encouragement or testimony that will serve as inspiration for other readers.  The majority of the blogs published on our website do not have another home and are not available in print. We republish blog posts with permission from other organizations. Once in a while we will re-publish an article from Timbrel as a blog. These processes are a way of optimizing content, a way to push around news and inspiration from one place to another, and it is only possible through digital technology and social media.

Every day, my work is dependent upon technology. MW USA has staff in four states and three time zones.  We meet monthly over a video platform. Almost all of my meetings with planning groups and board members take place in this way. Indeed, it is a way of working that many of us could not imagine even 10 years ago, and a fantastic blessing.

Postcard & a Prayer :: February Email Newsletter

Enjoy February e-news from Mennonite Women USA!

Check out our new format to get all the latest information, reflections and images that cover all our national and international happenings from our Sister Care seminars to our upcoming Timbrel coverage. We also include a prayer to bless your day, excerpts from women in the greater church and content relevant to Mennonite women everywhere.

Sign-up today, stay connected each month!

Read the latest issue.

 

Postcard & a Prayer :: September Email Newsletter

Enjoy September e-news from Mennonite Women USA!

Check out our new format to get all the latest information, reflections and images that cover all our national and international happenings from our Sister Care seminars to our upcoming Timbrel coverage. We also include a prayer to bless your day, excerpts from women in the greater church and content relevant to Mennonite women everywhere.

Sign-up today, stay connected each month!

MW USA September Email 2016

Postcard & a Prayer :: August Email Newsletter

Enjoy August e-news from Mennonite Women USA!

Check out our new format to get all the latest information, reflections and images that cover all our national and international happenings from our Sister Care seminars to our upcoming Timbrel coverage. We also include a prayer to bless your day, excerpts from women in the greater church and content relevant to Mennonite women everywhere.

Sign-up today, stay connected each month!

MW USA August Email 2016

Summer Timbrel :: Education + Miseducation :: Former MW USA Board Member Regina Shands Stoltzfus Wins Spirit of Justice Award

This article originally appeared on the Goshen College news blog.

Regina Shands Stoltzfus, assistant professor of peace, justice and conflict studies at Goshen College, has been awarded the 2016 Spirit of Justice Award by the State of Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC).

The Spirit of Justice Award is the ICRC’s highest honor. The award was created to recognize Hoosiers, who inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, have devoted their personal and professional efforts to creating social justice in the State of Indiana.

Shands Stoltzfus will be honored at the 25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Indiana Holiday Celebration on Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Indiana Statehouse, as well as at Goshen College during MLK Day celebrations on Monday, Jan. 18.

“I am grateful for the affirmation of work that I have long felt called to,” Shands Stoltzfus said. “I am even more grateful, however, for the many mentors and co-laborers I have in my friends, colleagues, family members and of course, my students. We are in this together – no one does it alone.”

Continue reading

Six Lessons Learned by Giving up Social Media

by: Emily Kauffman and Morgan Leavy

Morgan Leavy is in her freshman year at Hesston (Kan.) College, majoring in Psychology. She enjoys musical theater, photography, traveling and being with her friends. Emily Kauffman is currently a sophomore at Hesston, majoring in Communications and minoring in Bible. She has developed a passion for the church and a desire to explore how technology is affecting our society and relationships.

This article originally ran in the Hesston College Horizon.

Sherry Turkle, author of the book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, writes, “This is our moment to acknowledge the unintended consequences of the technologies to which we are vulnerable, but also to respect the resilience that has always been ours. We have time to make corrections and remember who we are—creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships, of conversations, artless, risky and face to face.”

In a search to rid ourselves of, as Turkle puts it, the “unintended consequences” of social media, we decided to give up social media for Lent this year. We were in need of a break. A break from the constant mindless scrolling. While the past 40 days have been full of temptation and loss, we have learned so much about ourselves and the world around us.

Here are the big six:

#1 We became more aware of how social media affects our relationships.

On the first day of Lent, I sat down at lunch with some friends. Immediately, I recognized that the five or six people surrounding me were on their cell phones. Continue reading