United Women in Faith gather for 51st annual meeting

By Wanda Chandler-Flowers

AIKEN—More than 200 women from across the state gathered at St. John United Methodist Church Oct. 20-21 for the 51st Annual Meeting of the South Carolina Conference United Women in Faith.

All 12 of the state’s districts were represented as attendees explored the theme “Unity in Christ.” The Scripture for the weekend was Ephesians 4:2-3, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (NIV).

With everything that’s going on in the world, the theme is fitting, said Kathy Roys, vice president of South Carolina Conference United Women in Faith.

The Rev. Telley Gadson, cabinet representative for United Women in Faith, kicked the weekend off by addressing the executive team with a powerful message. She reminded everyone that although these may be challenging times, they must not forget who their provider is.

“These are the worst of times, but these are also the best of times,” Gadson said.

Executive team member Azilee Dickey said the inspirational message brought tears to her eyes.

“She literally had me in tears because times might be tough but God provides,” Dickey said, noting Gadson’s message was on point and much needed.

Gadson continued by saying she has no problem saying she doesn’t know if she doesn’t know, but she will work to find out. She reminded everyone that “we still have to love people, even when we don’t like them.”

To be Christians, the Book of Matthew says, Christians must make disciples for Jesus Christ.

Each year the program book is dedicated to a special individual. This year was no different. This year’s program book was dedicated in memory of Imogene Steele. Steele served as president of the group from 2003-2006 and passed away three days prior to this year’s meeting. The women paused as they reflected on the work of Steele. Some even discussed seeing the smile on her face as she strolled into last year’s meeting in Myrtle Beach.

St. John’s United Women in Faith president Connie Shade and pastor Dr. Tim McClendon welcomed the group to their church. Shade encouraged everyone to enjoy Aiken’s sites.

A self-proclaimed former shy person who often keeps the crowd laughing, Sue Owens took the stage and said there is a need for South Carolina United Women in Faith to be in attendance at the group’s Southeastern Jurisdiction meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in April 2024. The SEJ Nominations Committee has nominated two from South Carolina to be officers on the leadership team for the next quadrennium: Azilee Dickey as vice president and Betty Void as chair of the Committee on Nominations. The SCCUWF Nominations Committee has submitted Kimberly Graham as a nominee for the National Board and Marcella Forrest and Debra Schooler for Program Advisory Group. Elections for SEJ Leadership Team, National Board and PAG will be held at the April meeting.

Owens continued by making the room laugh one minute but being serious the next, while she collected dollar bills with a “G” for God, a “J” for Jesus and the jurisdiction and an “L” for legacy. She noted the money will be delivered to the meeting. G and J funds and other moneys will be given to mission giving at the event. L funds will be given at the celebration banquet that Saturday night. Checks made out to SEJ Leadership Team UMW will go to Mission Giving.

Owens stunned the crowd by announcing that after 32 years of serving (in some capacity) on the SCCUMW Executive Committee, she would be retiring from that committee after the SEJ event. She will still be available for speaking engagements and for leading Mission u studies. She thanked everyone for their support over the years. She headed to her seat after blowing her train whistle designating that the Chattanooga Choo Choo was heading out soon.

The speakers for the weekend were from the Orangeburg District. Orangeburg District Superintendent the Rev. Ken Nelson served as the guest speaker on Friday evening. Nelson stated that although these may be difficult times, they must continue to do the great things they are doing.

On Saturday, the Rev. Shirley Gordon of the Wesley Foundation Orangeburg delivered a message titled “Give Me Your Eyes.” Gordon reminded the crowd God tells people to love one another more than they love themselves. The backdrop to her message was the Brandon Heath Song “Give Me Your Eyes.” In the song, the writer asks God to give him his eyes for just one second so he can see what he’s been missing. Like the apostle Paul, the songwriter asks for compassion, patience, humbleness and gentleness.

Gordon said many times people are so busy they don’t see what others are dealing with. Everyone needs that patience, humbleness, compassion and gentleness the songwriter speaks of.

Barbara Simpson, president of the Orangeburg District United Women in Faith, had much praise for the weekend.

“The 51st Annual Conference was a blessing, simply observing the youthful praise dance team, Oaks of Righteousness of Edisto Fork United Methodist Church, express a message from God, to the song ‘My World Needs You’ by Kirk Franklin,” Simpson said. “Without speaking a word, just flowing in spirit, I got chills, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place when I looked around. We, the United Women in Faith, really share this moment of unity in God’s presence with one another.”

After the installation of officers, the United Women in Faith left St. John UMC, heading home in many different directions but with one purpose: unity in Christ.

Chandler-Flowers is the SCCUWF communications coordinator. For more pictures go to  

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