National Episcopal Church Women board members, province presidents and United Thank Offering chairwomen snaked through the crowd to the enthusiastic strains of “We’re Marching in the Light of God.”
With festive and colorful ribbons flying, National ECW President Pamela Stewart officially opened the 44th ECW Triennial Meeting Wednesday in Ballroom A of the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Stewart greeted ECW members to what she calls the third house of the convention, “The House of Joy,” where 399 delegates represent nine provinces and 100 dioceses.
‘Women of the Table’
Members were treated to the premiere viewing of “Women of the Table: A Celebration of Women’s Ministries in the Episcopal Church,” a film produced by independent television producer Katie Sherrod and the National ECW Board. The film was created to do a better job of communicating the work of ECW to the Anglican Community and is presented as a tribute to the unity of the mission of the church.
Narrated by the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, the film is a celebration of the ministries of women. The film features women in roles ranging from more traditional ones, such as Altar Guild and missionary posts, to new venues, breaking barriers and entering creative ministries, such as running a credit union for low-income populations or starting a camp to increase literacy in children.
“Women of the Table” is available for sale at the ECW booth for $10.
The Rev. Canon Barbara Price, the event’s illuminator, characterized the ECW board as “Wild Women Organized for Action” and praised them for their energy and collegial spirit.
Price then spoke about the process of becoming a lightbearing woman, a woman who performs service in Christ’s name. Citing examples from the life the Virgin Mary, Price encouraged her listeners to be thankful that she “walked the walk God called her to do” and pointed to Mary’s willingness to take on a difficult and frightening role in God’s creation.
Anglican and ecumenical guests were introduced, emphasizing ECW’s connectedness with the rest of the world. Included were representatives of the worldwide Mother’s Union, the Mother’s Union of Canada, the International Anglican Women’s Network, the Anglican Women of Australia, ECW Philippines, and the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Bishop Jelinek’s welcome
The Rt. Rev. James Jelinek, bishop of Minnesota, welcomed the delegates and described his diocese as one of diverse congregations, including Hispanic, African-American, Native American, and Liberian. He expressed appreciation for UTO grants given to the Diocese of Minnesota and said the diocese had responded by increasing its support of UTO. He thanked the delegates for sharing their ministries and missions.
Three gavels and ‘Boing’
Stewart, in her remarks to the delegates, displayed three gavels she had been given while serving as president of the National ECW Board.
One is from St. John’s in Detroit and is dated 1860-1913. The second, dated 1940-1946, was used by the Executive Board of the Women’s Auxiliary, as ECW was formerly known. The third gavel is plain and undated.
In the course of her travels to 46 dioceses, as well as to Canada and the Philippines, Stewart said she once found herself at a meeting in Texas without any gavels at all. That was when she purchased “Boing,” a green, purple and orange stuffed creature that makes a distinctive sound when pounded like a gavel. She pointed out that, although the women of ECW do serious work, they try not to take themselves seriously, and “Boing” provides a bit of levity.
Following her election to the ECW presidency at the 43rd Triennial Meeting, Stewart said she promised the House of Bishops that “women would use their gifts to make a difference.” This promise resulted in the “Call to Action,” which asks Episcopal women to become involved in the areas of leadership, literacy, nonviolence and interfaith relations.
“ECW has empowered us and we can empower others,” Stewart said. “We can hear what God is calling us to do and we can keep the new light shining.”