Ponder – Why am I scared?

The image of the snakes illustrates my thoughts. The picture shows a snake I encountered on a hiking path at Camp Friedenswald this summer. The first image is the actual photo. The second photo illustrates what my mind saw (a big, more threatening snake). I think it is only fair to tell you, the snake did not bother me at all. It held its ground. I, on the other hand, got a running start and leaped over the snake. Silly, I know, but I fear snakes.

As I was preparing for a speaking engagement at a local Mennonite Church, I was confronted with some of those deep-seated fears and anxieties we often don’t realize we have until we are faced with them. I was to speak at the church’s family camp outing at a local State Park. The park is only 25 miles from my home, but I had never been there. I had heard of it, but never had reasons to visit. So, I thought it would be good for me to visit the State Park and sit in that space for a while to allow the Spirit to show me what direction I should go for the gathering. This is a typical way I prepare for sermons, so I thought nothing of it.

I toured the park, asked the staff questions, and admired its splendor. It is a beautiful park. I thought about maybe having my family gather there for our family reunion next summer. A very positive and uplifting experience. As I began to leave the park, I noticed some changes in my thoughts and awareness.

As I was pulling out of the park, several trucks with large campers attached were pulling in. My first thought, I wonder how long they are planning to stay? Then I pull off into the street heading back to the highway and noticed 4 or 5 pick-up trucks one right after the other. Maybe only one had a flag on it, but I noticed my anxieties rising about where I was. I quickly began to think whether my family knew where I was. I began wondering about who uses the park and how would they feel about me being there.

Camping, hiking, etc. are not typical activities for African Americans, especially here in the Midwest. I remember when Oprah tried to encourage African Americans to visit the national parks. She sparked our curiosity, but I don’t think attendance amongst my community rose much. I believe it has much to do with our anxieties about safety, welcome, and not knowing much about nature and the animals who call it home.

I know my fear and anxiety are irrational, but they have deep roots. My fears about being harmed in rural areas of our country come from a history of lynching and torture of black bodies who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. African Americans have learned over the centuries that we are not welcomed in many spaces. That our very presence in some areas invite a hatred that is deeply embedded in racism. Our community has internalized those traumas associated with that history and we find it hard to shake. This is what led to my experience of fear even when there was no immediate threat.

I relaxed when I was back in a more populated area. But the emotional experiences are still there, leaving me to ponder, why am I scared?

Women Together I :: How to Write a Governance Document

Many women’s groups have some sort of written document that guides their operations and overall sense of being together. While often called a constitution, a better term might be governance document. Constitution refers to the governance document of an entity that stands alone, but most women’s groups are a part of the formal or informal structure of a congregation.

Advantages of having a document like this are: Continue reading

Women Together I :: Types of Women’s Groups

Bible study: Meet for a half hour of fellowship and a half hour of study once a week, using Mennonite Women USA’s annual Bible study guides or other materials. This could involve private study between sessions.

Spiritual friendships: Gather in twos, threes, or fours for prayer, meditation, and spiritual direction in a space outside the busyness and demands of everyday life. A place of encouragement and accountability.

Mentoring: Pair older, mature believers with younger women or newer believers. Continue reading

Women Together I :: Steps for Starting a Women’s Group

Consider the characteristics of your congregation.

Are you:
Small: no women’s group
Large: a mix of full-time homemakers and women working outside the home
Integrated: men and women work jointly on committees, leadership
Traditional: an established women’s group meets some needs very well
Urban: many professional people, possibly a number of university students
New and growing: people of many backgrounds Continue reading