By Jacqueline F. Williams
“We’ve never done it that way before.” Who has never heard that statement during a planning session?
Although not always welcomed, change is sometimes necessary. And, after months of anticipation, preparation, as well as some anxiety, the members of the South Carolina Conference United Methodist Women gathered virtually on Saturday, Oct. 24, to celebrate their 48th Annual Meeting.
When the Program Committee met in January to plan this event, members did not foresee the need for any drastic changes. After 47 years, the routine had been pretty much set: Choose a theme, Scripture passage, Bible study leader, keynote speaker and local mission project. Next would be the tour of the church facilities to decide where various activities would be held. The site of the annual meeting, which alternates among the 12 districts, is typically the biggest change each year. The ladies of the host district look forward to following certain traditions while showcasing their district and its people, and the ladies of SCCUMW look forward to experiencing and enjoying what the host district offers.
Then came COVID-19—and change.
The Greenwood District United Methodist Women and Main Street United Methodist Church adapted beautifully to the unforeseen circumstance of a worldwide pandemic and hosted the 48th Virtual Annual Meeting of SCCUMW, the first of its kind in our storied history.
Joyce Crouch, Greenwood District UMW president, and Mary Lynn Polk, Main Street UMW president, alongside Janice Eaddy, SCCUMW vice-president and chair of the Program Committee, spearheaded the effort to host a successful and memorable virtual annual meeting using the theme “Let Your Light Shine in a New Decade.”
The SCCUMW Annual Meeting is usually a two-day event held the fourth weekend in October with 300-350 attendees. This year’s meeting, however, was a one-day event comprising two 90-minute sessions. Nearly 260 persons registered for the virtual event.
Many persons contributed to the success of this venture. Kimberly Love Quick, the conference communications coordinator and chair of the Technology Committee, served as host of the meeting. Her technology skills were invaluable in training and assisting team members in this new concept of meeting virtually. Our ever-vigilant Conference President Cathy Ford convened the meeting and welcomed all attendees.
Greeters included Bishop Holston, who urged listeners to “turn your lights on;” Dr. Robin Dease, UMW Cabinet representative; Dr. Stephen Love, Greenwood District superintendent; and the Rev. James McCoy-Bruce, pastor of Main Street UMC.
Charm Eaddy and Kate Hyder of the Charter for Racial Justice reminded us to “celebrate our togetherness and humanity in one another” for the glory of God.
Holston elaborated on the theme of “Let Your Light Shine” as he offered “A Message from the Heart,” cautioning against “title over testimony” or “prestige over prayer” while urging boldness and fearlessness.
Bible study leader the Rev. Susan Maddox encouraged listeners to do “a little house cleaning” if our lights are dimly lit—i.e. “dust off our light” and allow the Holy Spirit to shine through.
Joyden Glover and Alyssa Gottheiner addressed the assembly expressing their appreciation as 2020 recipients of Presidential Scholarships. Morgan Steele, another scholarship recipient, was unable to attend, but sent a letter of gratitude.
Having urged attendees to prepare a snack beforehand, Vickie Harvey, Spartanburg District president and nominee for Spiritual Growth coordinator, led the SCCUMW first-ever virtual Love Feast. Session One ended with the showing of a trailer of “Emanuel 9.” The activities in Session One were rendered even more meaningful with the musical selections by Rodney Cleveland, Main Street UMC organist, and Main Street UMC vocalists Myra Greene and Dennis Moore.
Session Two began with Sue Owens, newly elected SEJ UMW president, greeting the assembly in her inimitable manner. Members were joyful to hear from Samoria Session, newly elected member of the Program Advisory Group. Harriet Jane Olson, UMW National Secretary/CEO and last year’s keynote speaker, appeared via the video, “Gratitude and Hope for a Just Future.”
Various SCCUMW Executive Team members presented their reports in this business session of the meeting. Diamond Units, Mission Today Units and Reading Program participants were recognized. Special music “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” recorded earlier by Main Street UMC, preceded the keynote address delivered by the Rev. Thessa Smith, pastor of Trinity UMC.
Smith continued with the theme of shining a light in the darkness, emphasizing Matthew 5:16. Her message contrasted the feelings of darkness (uncertainty, uneasiness, fear) with the feelings of light (ablaze, awesome, beautiful) encouraging listeners to “let your light shine.”
Mary Johnson, past SCCUMW president, recognized retiring conference officers: Jacqueline Williams, secretary; Velva Ellerbe, secretary of Program Resources; Mary Cabaniss, CON chair; Jan Fleming, CON; Dannett Golden, CON; and Owens, historian.
Cabaniss presented the 2021 Slate of Nominees. All were unanimously elected. Harriett Mays, past Conference President, conducted the Installation Service. Newcomers to the Executive Committee are Dr. Renee Ritter, secretary, and Shirley Crosby, secretary of Program Resources. Officers returning to serve in a new position as CON members are Sandra Love, Velva Ellerbe and Azilee Dickey. Officers serving a second term in their positions are Ford, president; Eaddy, vice president; Kim Love Quick, communications; Lavonne James, Membership, Nurture and Outreach; Linda Eichenbaum, social action; and Kathy Roys, CON chair.
After the singing of the “Spirit Song,” Cathy Ford adjourned the 48th Virtual Annual Meeting. The Program Committee, as well as other participants, breathed a well-deserved sigh of relief and heralded this event as one for the history books.
Williams is SCCUMW conference secretary (2017-2020).
By Jacqueline F. Williams