Women’s organizations, as we know them today, started forming in the mid-1800s. (For an interesting overview of how they all began, visit here.) As circumstances and roles have changed in both church and society, women’s organizations have often tried to keep up with the changes and reinvent themselves.
Nonetheless, some of you probably know a unit of Women of the ELCA in a congregation today that hasn’t changed much since the 1950s or 1960s. Their activities – probably focusing on Bible study, quilt making and serving funeral luncheons – are the same today as they have been for 50 or 60 years. Most of the women in that group are easily 65 or more years old.
Would you be surprised to know of a Women of the ELCA unit with an active Facebook page and an online book discussion blog? Would you be surprised to know of a unit that regularly gathers women from their teens to their 90s around fiber arts projects, knitting and crocheting items that are given to those in need?
Would you be surprised to know of a unit that meets for monthly Bible study in a local coffeehouse? Or another unit that holds its regular study sessions over cocktails?
These are current examples of Lutheran women gathering together for study, service and fellowship.
At last year’s ELCA Youth Gathering, teenaged women told us of their desire to connect more fully with other women in the church. Kayla said: “When I surround myself with positive, good women, such as my mom, they show me what I can accomplish.” Kate said: “The older women serving Christ in my life are my biggest role models. They inspire me to live every day for God’s glory. Without the relationships I have with other women of God, my life would be very different.” Genny said: “I am especially blessed by the example of some of the older women in my church … they have been a testament and witness to devotion and service. Thanks to them!”
Yes, the face of today’s women’s organization is changing. Yet at its core, it serves the same purpose as the groups in the 1800s: providing a space for Lutheran women to come together for study, service and fellowship.
The governance structure of Women of the ELCA provides great flexibility that can meet the needs of women in any congregation. A single unit of Women of the ELCA could include a quilting group consisting mostly of women in their 70s and 80s, a book discussion group of women of all ages, and a Café group of women in their 20s and 30s.
The world as we know it is changing. Need proof? Check out this video about social media and how we communicate:
Even in the midst of change – perhaps even because of the change that is swirling about us – we Lutheran women want and need to come together for study, service and fellowship. Women of the ELCA can provide the space to make it happen.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is the executive director of Women of the ELCA.