by Deb Martin
Have you ever been invited to something new and hesitated? When I was 30 years old, we bought our first house and joined a new church. Judy invited me to their women’s Bible study. I declined because I had a baby and worked 50 hours a week. She called again every month.
Finally, I agreed and am so glad I did. I felt welcomed and enjoyed the conversation. Since that time, whenever we moved and joined a new church, I joined the women’s Bible study or started one. This pandemic calls us to do what we may never have imagined we would do. Church online. Zoom meetings with family, friends, church council, etc. Staying home more. Finally, time to clean closets, basement, and garage.
In East Central Synod in Wisconsin Women of the ELCA, we are trying some new things for our women.
We are holding monthly Zoom Bible studies using the Gather magazine. The studies are so relevant to our situation now. In addition to our quarterly newsletter, we are now sending a monthly message to our members and all of our churches whether they have a formal Women of the ELCA group or not, so all women know more about us.
We are asking women to send us what their congregation is doing, and we put four of those in our July email. I look forward to more stories in the coming months. We created a Facebook page, which you can visit and like.
What new ways can we support our women and other women in our congregations? This was on my mind when I agreed to be president of our synodical women’s organization. I had no idea what was to come but knew changes are needed to be relevant to more women. As horrific as the pandemic is, it has forced changes and creative ideas. I recently read “How to lead when you don’t know where you are going” written in 2019 by Susan Beaumont about the need for churches to change while human nature wants everything to stay the same.
We have a page on our synod website and monthly share WELCA information in the synod newsletter. Our board is meeting by zoom. Board member Cathy sends a prayer with requests from our women to all of us weekly.
As a new president, I wondered what other synods do. I attended the presidents’ meeting in Chicago in February, which helped a lot. I reached out to the WELCA synodical presidents in the other Wisconsin synods and Upper Penninsula, and we had our first Zoom meeting in June. We shared information and plan to meet again next month.
We usually have a table with information at our synod assembly, but we had no assembly this year. We submitted a WELCA resolution, which we will submit instead at our next in-person assembly. The resolution brings more awareness about WELCA and the ministries we support in our synod. How else can we engage our synod women? We ask our conference representatives to call each of their groups to check-in.
Are you a bag lady?
We’ve postponed our spring events and fall retreat until 2021. We are using our fall retreat theme, “Are you a bag (blessed and gifted) lady?” for postings on Facebook and zoom discussions about our gifts in the next months to connect with our women. Here is the link to our YouTube video explaining.
The Women of the ELCA are treasures in our church. Women have supported me through years of problems and joys. I want more women in our church to know this fellowship/friendship. We also support essential ministries in our neighborhoods and around the world. I suspect some congregations do not know this. Please share your ideas. Together, on the other side of this pandemic, we will be stronger and be even more relevant in our congregations and world.
Deb Martin of Oshkosh, Wis., is president of the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin’s women’s organization. Feature photo is “A new day” quilt submitted by Susan Long, Lancaster, Pa., for the Triennial Gathering 2017 quilt challenge.
Here’s what others are doing
Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director of Women of the ELCA, sent a letter last week to voting members to the 2021 Triennial Convention in Phoenix, on what would have been the Eleventh Triennial Convention‘s original date.
“I’m writing to you today with three things in mind: 1) words of encouragement; 2) an invitation to support our shared ministry through Faithful Friends; and 3) cautionary words about meeting in person,” she wrote. In the letter, she asked voting members to report what they are doing in their congregational units. Below are two responses.
Our community of believers continues to do ministry. All of our meetings continue virtually, not in the building. We continue to minister to our shelter girls’ home by providing a meal. We continue with our justice ministry. All of our congregation’s services are online, including confirmation and youth programs. Our women sewed masks for our Center for Disease Control center and the community when we are asked. All of the meetings have continued virtually. During this time it is difficult to meet and/or visit personally; however, we maintain contact and provide services to the community when requested and/or when we can.
Gwendolyn Furcron, a 2021 WELCA voting member, Living Springs Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C.
We at Bethlehem Lutheran, Granada Hills, Calif., are having Gather Bible studies monthly via Zoom. Our Pastor Megan Fryling opens and moderates it. I have organized the study so all can participate. It is open to all. Connie Troe, our board secretary, publicizes it in our Bethlehem newsletter. We even have visitors from other churches who are not doing the Gather Bible studies.
Our annual fall boutique is on the church schedule for November 7-8, 2020, but as of yesterday, L.A. churches are shut down. We were talking about selling outside on tables adhering to social distancing and putting our “treasurers” in baggies displaying only one on the table. But those plans may have to be postponed depending on our situation.
Our SWO board is also meeting via Zoom. All in-person meeting dates are postponed. We’re thinking of maybe January 2021 for our next gathering. Our lives right now are on hold, but we still get our newsletter out as a way to keep in touch. We also have our next Zoom board meeting in August.
Dianne Tillman, a 2021 WELCA voting member, Bethlehem Lutheran, Granada Hills, Calif.