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Toward Columbus: Episcopal Church Women look forward to triennial

By Margaret E. Williams
[Episcopal News Service]  For Harriett Neer, being president of the denomination-wide board of the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) has meant three years of travel, hard work, planning and dreaming.

Everything will come together beginning June 11 in a series of spiritual, educational and enjoyable events that are the 45th ECW Triennial Meeting. Neer hopes everyone attending General Convention will realize that ECW's vision for this Triennial Meeting transcends every aspect of the church and its work.

"The preparations for Triennial Meeting (2006) actually began at the very first national board meeting in November 2003," said Neer, who calls the Diocese of Arkansas home. "At that meeting, the board thoughtfully and prayerfully formed a vision for the triennium, a part of which is that we come together 'as a peacemaking, healing part of the church.' All of our plans for the Triennial Meeting have focused on that vision."

From Sunday, June 11, through Wednesday, June 21, the 200-plus women planning to attend Triennial Meeting 2006 will have many events in which to participate in the areas of spiritual development, sharing, education and business.

Karyl Otten, the national ECW board vice president for program, was charged with the job of planning and coordinating the programs to be offered during Triennial Meeting. The national board met nine times in three years in every province of the Episcopal Church to make sure that all the plans and programs took shape and became reality.

"Worship, workshops, speakers, meals, housing, contacts, planning meetings with the committee for housing and arrangements and with volunteers and overall coordination of all Triennial Meeting events -- I've probably left something out," said Otten, who also moved from Utah in Province VIII to Colorado in Province VI during her three years on the board.

"This board has been very supportive and helpful about taking on tasks that they might not normally be responsible for," she said.

There are some new events planned for this Triennial Meeting as well as traditional programs and new twists on programming. Among those plans:

  • Before either General Convention or Triennial Meeting begin, a prayer walk is planned. Anyone is welcome to join in the walk, which begins at 4:30 p.m. on June 11 at the ECW plenary space and will cover the entire Greater Columbus Convention Center site.
  • On June 12 the Church Periodical Club, which winds up its own Triennial Meeting just as the ECW Triennial Meeting begins, will host its Overseas Bishops Dinner at the Westin Hotel.
  • The Triennial Meeting opening celebration is set for 1 p.m. on June 13.
  • Noontime offerings bring out the music and meaning each day during the meeting and are open to anyone interested in bringing a lunch and participating. This year's offerings include presentations by Horace Boyer, who is serving as the ECW's Triennial Meeting musician, Marty Burnett, the St. Andrew's Gospel Choir, John Smylie and Elisabeth Von Trapp.

Noontime offering programs are "deliberately planned to be relaxing, refreshing and inspiring," Neer said. "Grab a snack or lunch and drop in -- for a few minutes or the entire time."

  • The ECW's Evening of Entertainment on Friday, June 16, provides the musical stylings of Brenda Williams in the Hyatt Hotel ballroom beginning at 8 p.m. Everyone is welcome to drop in or make an evening of it.
  • Workshops June 18-20 offer educational opportunities.
  • The meeting will close with a special celebration June 21.

Neer said as a "safety valve for stress release," ECW will also organize "God's Park, which is open to all."

"The room set aside will have tables with cards and games, a wall for graffiti, Frisbees, balloons, Play Doh, crayons and paper, comfortable chairs, maybe even some chocolate," Neer said. "Although we hope it won't be needed, a punching bag will be available, too."

While it's impossible to anticipate everyone's needs all the time, Otten said the board has done its best to try to anticipate needs and arrange for a meaningful experience.

"What I hope folks get out of the Triennial Meeting is a wonderful, all-around experience," said Otten. "Business needs to be done, but we have planned wonderful celebrations around the work that we will do, the speakers we have and the workshops that will be presented.

"I hope that the women coming to the Triennial Meeting will network, gather useful information to take home and enjoy a truly spiritual experience."

The vision statement adapted for this Triennial Meeting reads "Our vision for all women of the Episcopal Church is that we become a vibrant blend of women of all ages, coming together as a peacemaking, healing part of the church. We aspire to be a Godspark, shining and hearing the love of Christ."

"We will be 'shining and hearing the love of Christ' as we move from the opening celebration June 13, through the program which will end in an inspiring closing celebration on June 21," said Neer. "The days between are packed with interesting, educational and inspiring events."