Exercising Faith Over Fear: United Methodist Women annual meeting

By Linda Eichenbaum

“Good morning! Good, good morning to all!”

With that, Cathy Ford, president of the South Carolina Conference United Methodist Women, called the 49th Annual Meeting of the group to order. After pounding the traditional gavel, she expressed a special welcome and warm greeting to Bishop Jonathan and Felecia Holston and to all women gathered from across the state for the event.

The meeting, held virtually Oct. 23, was hosted by Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church in Camden.

After a pre-conference virtual tour of Hartsville, Ford began the meeting with a word of prayer from the UMW 2021 Prayer Calendar and written by Kate Peterson, Order of Deaconesses and Home Missioners, Eastbrook Mission Barn, New Castle, Pennsylvania: “God of peace, let us so shine with your love that all the world sees you through us. Amen.”

“This was our second virtual Annual Meeting,” Ford said, “but even more importantly, this was our 49th annual meeting. Every annual meeting is a time of celebration of the total program of mission in which we are involved. Truly, the South Carolina Conference United Methodist Women are involved in many missions. I thank you sisters and brothers in Christ for your energy, your passion, your commitment to bringing the love of Christ to everyone everywhere, always and forever. The members of this powerful yet humble organization are ‘Exercising Faith Over Fear’ every month, week, day, hour and minute of every year as they serve with boldness and confidence, which comes solely … from our constant companion, Father God.

“Our faith makes us strong! Our faith defines who we are. Let us rejoice in the strength of that knowledge and celebrate all that we do and believe.”

Ford said that as UMW members journey into the future, remembering and honoring traditions of the past and creating new traditions for the future, they should always put faith, hope and love into action.

Vice President Janice Eaddy presented the Program Book next, and then greetings were offered by Holston, as well as Hartsville District Superintendent and Cabinet Representative the Rev. Telley Gadson, Lyttleton Street UMC pastor the Rev. Gary Rivas, Hartsville District UMW President Jacquelyn Session and Lyttleton Street UMW President Carol Lee.

UMW General Secretary Harriett Olson greeted the group via a video title “Emerging New Thing in Methodism.”

Charm Eaddy, SCCUMW Charter for Racial Justice Representative, and Vice President Janice Eaddy led the women in a Prayer of Commitment: “We believe that God is the creator of all people and all are God’s children in one family. We believe that racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ and denies the redemption and reconciliation of Jesus Christ. We believe that racism robs all human beings of their wholeness and is used as a justification for social, economic, and political exploitation. We believe that we must declare before God and before one another that we have sinned against our sisters and brothers of other races in thought, word and deed. We further believe that in our common humanity in creation, all women and men are made in God’s image, and all persons are equally valuable in the sight of God. We believe that our strength lies in our racial and cultural diversity and that we must work toward a world in which each person’s value is respected and nurtured, and that our struggle for justice must be based upon new attitudes, new understandings and new relationships and must be reflected in the laws, policies, structures and practices of both church and state. FINALLY, As United Methodist Women members, we commit ourselves as individuals and as a community to follow Jesus Crist in word and in deed and to struggle for the rights and the self-determination of every person and group of persons.”

Holston then delivered his “Message from the Heart,” encouraging all to, as he stated, “Never back away from our challenges.”

Holston said all we have are gifts from God, including challenges. In exercising our faith over fears, we have opportunity for mission. What we’ve got to do is an obligation, but what we get to do is an opportunity. As he exclaimed, may God be the glory for all United Methodist Women can do together.

Meaningful musical organ selections of “Be Thou My Vision” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” performed by Ike Pitts of Lyttleton Street UMC added emotional emphasis.

Next, Greenwood District UMW President Joyce Crouch introduced the Bible study leader, the Rev. Brenda Thomas, pastor of Good Hope UMC. Thomas focused upon exercising faith over fear with passages from Joshua 1:1-9, encouraging all to be strong and courageous.

As Thomas noted, great leaders are rare, and everyone is a leader, for someone is always watching and learning from you. She exhorted the women to study God’s word, meditate on his word, and be faithful followers of Christ.

Next, Ruby Hannah, treasurer, introduced the two 2021 Presidential Scholarship Recipients, Joyden Glover and Jillian Spencer, both of whom expressed great appreciation to the UMW for the opportunity to continue their educations. Glover is a sophomore elementary education major at Winthrop University and Spencer is a freshman bio-chemistry and genetics major at Clemson University.

Having urged attendees to prepare a snack beforehand, a love feast/memorial service was conducted by Vickie Harvey, spiritual growth coordinator, following the bell ringing memoriam for UMW members who have passed away. This was the second year the Christian fellowship meal was shared virtually.

The morning session concluded with a viewing of ‘I Believe You’ a powerful video about Intimate Partner Violence.

After a break, the afternoon business session began with Olson’s video, “Personal Response to COVID-19 Health Crisis.”

Ford then presented her president’s report highlighting the purpose of UMW and the scope of the UMW mission project. She shared that SCCUMW has the distinction of having the largest United States membership number, 9,458, and the largest unit membership of 319.

Thanks were offered to the program committee, the Hartsville District and the technology team for the success of the annual meeting.

“I am honored to serve beside you,” Ford said. “I am truly thankful for this experience and opportunity to grow spiritually through our shared experiences. Exercising our faith, nurturing and exercising it, will keep us strong. Like Daniel in the lion’s den and David before Goliath, we go boldly into the future with confidence knowing we are loved children of God.”

Ford also honored two UMW with Special Mission Recognition Pins: Barbara Brooks, deaconess and past Marion District president and active missionary, and Debra Schooler, longtime Limitless mentor and leader and current Columbia District president. Ford asked them to consider themselves “admired and hugged.”

Dr. Renee Ritter presented the 2020 minutes, which were adopted after minor corrections.

Various Executive Committee members then presented their reports and awards: Diamond Award Units, Mission Today Units and Reading Program Units were all recognized and praised for continued success during a challenging season.

Hannah presented the 2022 Budget, which was approved.

“Fairest Lord Jesus,” performed by Pitts, preceded Eaddy’s introduction of the keynote speaker, the Rev. Angela Marshall, of St. John’s UMC in Lugoff.

Marshall spoke on “Exercising Faith over Fear,” encouraging all to listen to God’s word to overcome distress and to live “on the edge of faith with one foot poised to step forward into fear.” She reminded all never to doubt God’s promise and presence.

“Great is thy faithfulness—always,” Marshall said.

Registrar and Hartsville District Treasurer Bernice Wright then presented Annual Meeting credentials: 348 members registered, including 15 under age 40, and 134 first-timers. Wright also emphasized the five things God wants us to remember: 1) We are never alone; 2) Nothing takes God by surprise; 3) When we’re weak, He is strong; 4) He is the God of new beginnings; and 5) Love never gives up on us.

UMW Southeastern Jurisdiction President Sue Owens recognized retiring SCCUMW Officers: Eunice White, Education and Interpretation (four years); Lavonne James, Membership, Nurture and Outreach (three years); Evelyn Pauling, Committee on Nominations (four years); Betty Swinton, Mission u Dean and Assistant Dean (four years); Charm Eaddy, Charter for Racial Justice Committee (three years); Kate Hyder, Charter for Racial Justice Committee (three years); and Barbara Holley, Spartanburg Bethlehem Center Representative (five years).

Owens closed in her inimitable style with, “Ya done good, and we thank ya!”

Kathy Roys, chair of the Nominations Committee, added Patricia Walker as a new nominee for Education and Interpretation. The new full slate was approved by ballot vote, and Samoria Session conducted the installation of new officers:

Patricia Walker: Education and Interpretation Coordinator

Ruby Hannah: Treasurer

Linda Kennedy: Committee on Nominations

Angela Allen: Membership, Nurture and Outreach Coordinator

Sonya Benjamin, Barb Brooks, Eunice White: Charter for Racial Justice Committee

Marion District President Sarah Woods offered a spirited invitation to the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting to be held in person in Myrtle Beach with First United Methodist Church as the host church. Plans are being made for a memorable celebration of United Methodist Women.

Ann Alexander invited all to the 2022 United Methodist Assembly in Orlando, Florida, and encouraged members younger than age 40 to apply to one of the three $500 scholarships available (contact Hannah or Ford for applications).

Maureen Thomas, Legacy Fund Liaison, noted that the UMW Legacy Fund has now topped $38 million toward its ultimate goal of $60 million. She noted there will be a special Inaugural Legacy Banquet at Assembly with a $65 extra ticket price.

Eaddy offered a final prayer for the 2021 Annual Meeting.

Ford closed the meeting, saying, “Thank you for being here today, being part of our ‘community of women whose purpose is to know God.’ We are one united group, serving together all across the conference. Stay safe. Stay well. Love one another from a distance. Continue doing what you do best which is putting faith, hope and love into action each and every day. Remember to ‘Exercise Faith Over Fear’ today and in the days to come.’

Pitts closed with the hymn “Here I Am, Lord,” a most appropriate ending to a beautiful day.

Eichenbaum is SCCUMW Social Action Coordinator.

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