Sister Care: Level 2 “Going Deeper” Coming to Harrisburg, PA

by Rhoda Keener

A Sister Care: Level 2 “Going Deeper” retreat will be offered for the first time this fall. The retreat will be held October 2-4 at Camp Hebron located 20 miles north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Carolyn Heggen and I cannot count the number of times we have heard women say during a Sister Care Level 1 seminar, “I need more time to process all that we have covered,” or “I wish we had more time at our table groups,” or “make this a full week-end retreat.” Here’s a description of the week-end from the brochure:

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Sowing Sisterhood :: The First Volume of Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly

This is Volume 1 of the Illinois Mennonite Women Quarterly Newsletter ‘Sowing Sisterhood.’ It was created and designed by Kim Litwiller and Shannon Unzicker. Kim is the Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference and the Co-Coordinator for Illinois Mennonite Women. Shannon is the Great Lakes representative to the board of Mennonite Women USA.

Download the PDF of Sowing Sisterhood.

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Sister Care Goes to College :: Creating Affirmation Through Community by Maggie Weaver

Maggie Weaver is a sophomore at Goshen College. She is double majoring in English-writing and interdisciplinary: journalism, communications and music. She is from Lititz, Pennsylvania.

On March 20 and 21, I participated in Sister Care at Goshen College. Sister Care is a program of Mennonite Women USA (MW USA) that travels locally–as well as globally–presenting women-specific seminars on healing and care for women. The seminar I participated in, piloted by Goshen College, was the first Sister Care specifically focused for college students. Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and Gender Studies and MW USA board member, coordinated the event.

Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener, the creators and organizers of the Sister Care seminars, worked with a focus group in April 2014 to adapt the program to fit the needs of college students. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this group, along with a few other Goshen College students and faculty members.

The main goal for the focus group was to identify the key issues that college-aged women face, so that Keener and Heggen could adjust the Sister Care curriculum appropriately. In small groups we listed the main issues we face as college women; the list that we developed was overwhelmingly large. Later, we narrowed the list down to four topics for the March seminar: self-worth and body image challenges, stress, the cultivation of healthy friendships, and exploring our life mission to shape decision-making.

Walking into the seminar, I found myself becoming anxious for the weekend. I had been so involved in the process, talking about what challenges I, as a college woman, face everyday. I felt as though I had placed a small piece of myself into Sister Care.

I was welcomed into the seminar space with the friendly faces of other Goshen College woman, fresh fruit, and freshly-made chai provided by women from four local churches. I sat down at a table (which had been practically covered with chocolates) and, with growing excitement, waited for Keener and Heggen to begin. Continue reading

Sister Care Seminar at Goshen College :: by Maddie Birky

Maddie Birky is News Editor at “The Record.” “The Record,” is published weekly at Goshen College during the Fall and Spring semesters, and is produced by student journalists on campus. The views expressed are their own. “The Record” is not the official voice of the student body, administration or the faculty of Goshen College. This piece was originally posted in “The Record” here.

This weekend [March 20-21] starting Friday from 7-9:30 and Saturday from 9-3, Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener will be presenting Sister Care, a project of Mennonite Women USA, in Newcomer 19. A grant given to Keener has allowed this to be a free pilot workshop. Women from Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship, Silverwood Mennonite Church, Waterford Mennonite Church and College Mennonite Church will be providing home-cooked snacks, breakfast and lunch.

“This is not a Mennonite-only event,” said Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and Women’s Gender Studies Mennonite Women USA board member. “Although they have led workshops at Mennonite-affiliated churches nationally and globally (India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Guatemala, Brazil and more), they have worked with women from a wide range of theological backgrounds and adapted it to different cultural contexts.”

At this workshop, ideas such as body image, self-worth, managing stress, making life decisions, and other topics related to college-aged women will be explored. Continue reading

Janie Beck Kreider on Food Justice :: Timbrel Spring 2015

Janie Beck Kreider is the Associate Coordinator of Public Programs at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center. She is also on staff with the Mennonite Creation Care Network and is part of the Mennonite Church USA communications team. She graduated from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 2012 with a Master of Divinity degree. Janie lives with her husband Luke in Charlottesville, Virginia and attends Charlottesville Mennonite Church. She enjoys leading retreats, planning worship, hiking and camping, music, cooking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Last month I led a women’s retreat on spirituality and the environment. This was the third retreat I’ve organized since joining the staff at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, and they have all somehow incorporated things I love dearly: singing and worshiping with other women, hiking at night in the snow, sharing delicious and thoughtfully prepared food, and reflecting on stories from the Bible and from our lives.

An important part of the retreat each year is to practice paying attention to the non-human elements in the world around us and in the biblical texts we study together. Following this theme, I led a workshop on prayer practices, including lectio divina, a slow, contemplative praying of scripture. In a small group we prayed excerpts from the long and beautiful Psalm 104:

O LORD, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

The earth is full of your creatures.

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,

And plants for people to use,

To bring forth food from the earth,

And wine to gladden the human heart,

Oil to make the face shine,

And bread to strengthen the human heart…. 

After praying together, we reflected on how the Spirit had moved in us. One woman shared that bread was the thing that struck her the most throughout our praying, that recently she had been reading about the health benefits of eating a gluten-free diet, and that recent studies have shown that wheat is difficult for the body to digest.

She had tears in her eyes as she reflected on how disorienting and even painful considering this dietary shift has been for her, because of how deeply bread is connected with her spirituality and the myriad ways bread is connected with the story of God’s people as a nourishing substance. Continue reading

We Help Make the Circle Complete :: Hyacinth Stevens on MW USA

This article by MW USA board member Hyacinth Stevens, first appeared in AAMA News: African American Mennonite Association’s spring edition of their newsletter published in March 2015.

Prior to becoming the AAMA representative on the Mennonite Women USA Board, I had very little connection with the work of the organization.

Mennonite Women USA is doing some great things! The organization is diligently working to live out its mission to empower women and women’s groups as we nurture our life in Christ through studying the Bible, using our gifts, hearing each other, and engaging in mission and service. (Adapted from the Mennonite Women USA Mission statement.)

The vision statement of Mennonite Women USA gives an invitation for diverse voices of women to be heard and celebrated. However, I realized that there are some voices missing. Over the last few years, Mennonite Women USA as an organization has been shifting its image to match its vision. This is not an organization that is fashioned for a select group of Mennonite women, rather for all Mennonite women!

The vision of the organization invites women across generations, cultures, and places to share and honor our stories, care for each other, and express our prophetic voice boldly as we seek to follow Christ.

I would like to extend the invitation to our AAMA congregations and networks to explore some of the resources Mennonite Women USA is using to impact women on a global level. This invitation is not just to utilize resources but to contribute our voice, our hands and culture to the circle of global impact Mennonite Women USA desires to have. Continue reading

It’s Not Me…Or Is It? :: by Shannon Unzicker

Women_gatheringShannon Musselman Unzicker (pictured on left), Benson, IL, is an active member of the Mennonite Church of Normal where she presently serves on the Creation Care Committee. She teaches a primary Sunday school class and participates in the local Moms in Touch. A social worker, Shannon is presently a fulltime mother of four children.

About five years ago, the mother of one of my son’s classmates invited me to join a prayer group that was being formed for our elementary school.  She explained that she would be one of the group leaders, and that the group of mothers would be meeting two mornings per month in her home to pray for our children, their teachers and the other students.

I was flattered that she had asked me, and thanked her for the invitation. I told her I would let her know in a week or so, but in my head, I was already thinking, “Nice of her to invite me, but I just don’t know if that’s ‘me.’ I will probably have to pray out loud in front of a group…not something I am very comfortable with.” Continue reading

Sister Care Multiplies in Brazil

When Deusilene Milhomen and Valéria Alvarenga from Brazil attended the Sister Care seminar in Bolivia in November 2013, they immediately began to dream of bringing this resource to their country. This meant translating the Sister Care manual into Portuguese. Milhomen, from Gama near Brasilia, asked a local teacher, Vera Lúcia de Silva Oliveira to translate; another church member, Marcelo Sousos Santos edited and formatted the manual, and 500 copies were printed. In January 2015, Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener led a Sister Care seminar for 55 women in Curitiba, Brazil with some of the women traveling over 1,500 miles to attend.

Sister Care

(L to R) Gladys Siemens, Rhoda Keener, Linda Shelly, Carolyn Heggen, Deusilene Milhomen

Milhomen and Gladys Siemens coordinated the seminar with Milhomen representing the Alianca Evangélica Menonita (AEM) and Siemens Associação das Igrejas Menonitas do Brasil (AIMB). Hans and Miriam Peters of the host church Igreja Menonita Ágape coordinated logistics. Continue reading