CHARLOTTE, N.C. —Jennifer Michael, outgoing president of Women of the ELCA, told the more than 360 women attending the Ninth Triennial Convention that they “collectively contribute to this organization.”
Michael, Dubuque, Iowa, delivered her final report to the convention meeting July 22-24 in Charlotte, N.C. She told delegates that her remarks were “an expression of gratitude to all of you. And what all of you collectively contribute to this organization so that it can truly be that community of women who nurture, who support, and who love one another.”
The triennial convention of the Women of the ELCA is the organization’s highest legislative authority with delegates elected by each of the 64 synodical women’s organizations.
In her remarks, Michael talked of the members’ commitment to the organization, adding that their dedication has created an organization where “women’s lives are changed.”
In describing her introduction to Women of the ELCA, Michael told how she was invited to attend an Elizabeth Circle Christmas party in 1995. “I enjoyed it so much, I kept coming back,” Michael said, recalling the “simple and persistent invitation. God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways,” she added.
“It doesn’t matter how you came to be a part of this organization. What does matter is that we recognize that God is using us in our very ordinariness to really transform the lives of one another, to be those spiritual change agents for our church and for our world.”
As Michael recalled times in her life when she faced difficulty, she described the support she received as a member of the organization.
“Like many of you, I have slogged through some very sticky mud in my life, and even as I have grown in this organization, it has pulled at me,” she said. “There were some days when I thought there was no one deeper down in the mud than me. But then God brought me reminders of how he lifts me out of that pit of destruction in the form of encouragement from my sisters within this organization. And God lifted me out of that sticky mud by constantly offering me small grace moments that came from unexpected blessings within this community of women that I share with you.”
“What kind of sticky mud have you trudged through to get to the place you are right now?” asked Michael, noting that “Whatever toils and troubles you have had to push against to get to the place where you are right now, they are like a bridge between you and that woman who needs you. Your life is intertwined with my life, and your faith is intertwined with my faith. I am living proof that you can make a difference.”
In her written report to the convention, Michael wrote, “From my earliest beginnings with Women of the ELCA, I have always been just like you…’the woman in the pew,’ working for what is faithful and best for this community of women and for the wider church.”
“As we have traveled these past three years together, we have seen struggles and triumphs. We have shared the experience of declining participation and giving. But we have also seen individual pockets of growth and promise.”
Michael is a second-year master of divinity degree student at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, one of the ELCA’s eight seminaries. She is also an ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship recipient.
ELCA News Service