Guest message by Anna Lisa Gross and The Global Women’s Project Steering Committee
Did any of you see the Nigerian women's choir on tour in the US a couple years ago, or at AC, singing and dancing with joy?
We learned stories of our Nigerian sisters and brothers as thousands were murdered, as churches and homes and schools burned, as hundreds of thousands fled in panic, refugees, away from loved ones, tears upon tears upon tears.
Many in the CoB turned toward Nigerian as violence and fear escalated. We remembered Jesus' call to turn the other cheek, which Nigerian Brethren are following, literally. Amid tears of grief, fear, anger, despair.
By the time the women's choir came they were singing songs of joy. Not because their grief was healed, not because the fear or violence or anger was gone. These women sang songs of joy because it is how we survive. We are divinely designed to create new possibilities, to collaborate with one another, to choose life, to find small reasons for hope and to string them together like little Christmas lights, and suddenly, we light up one corner.
Created in the image of God, we are divinely designed to be creative. To adapt. To collaborate. To heal. Doesn't mean we always live out of that divine part of our nature. Women might be a little better at this - our bodies teach us that pain is often mixed with creation, with making new life, with growing and caring and nurturing.
That doesn't mean it the pain is worth it, or meant to be, or justified. And I don't mean that every person can always choose creativity or collaborate with others or find reasons for hope. But we are divinely designed - all of us, of all genders - to adapt, to heal, to flourish.
For 40 years GWP has been an ever-changing group of volunteers working on two things:
Raising our own consciousness of our relative wealth and privilege and building relationship by connecting our resources with the essential needs of others.
We share money with women around the world because nearly all of us have more than we need. Maybe a lot more than we need. Maybe just a little. But a little can go a long way in so many parts of this world, supporting a peace project in India, a sewing cooperative in Sudan, girls' education in Uganda, a jail and post-jail ministry in Indiana, women's health in Mexico, Togo….
Some of us are born into poverty, abuse, struggle, and can't find our way to creativity. Many of us can't move from sowing tears to singing songs of joy. The women that GWP partners with are the ones who lead, the ones with compelling vision and the grit to try to make a difference.
Global Women's Project began 40 years ago when so much in this country was changing. 1978. Anyone remember 1978?
Second wave feminism, or the women's movement as people would have called it then, was sweeping the US, much of the world - it was even in Indiana! Even in the Church of the Brethren!
Though the CoB had "officially" been ordaining women for 20 years by then, women were not welcomed or called into leadership equally to men. So in 1976, Beth Glick-Rieman, whose niece Tina has been serving on GWP, was hired part-time by the denomination to address equal participation by women and men in the church. One thing Beth did was organize a conference of women, down the road in North Manchester. This was 1978, two years into Beth's work. She invited Ruthann Knechel Johansen to give the keynote.
Then, on the eve of the gathering, Beth found out that her position was being eliminated. Tears. Anger. Grief. Sowing tears.
And these women despaired together. And Ruthann spoke. And Ruthann shared her vision for women's liberation in the US to be intimately connected to liberation of all women and all people throughout the world. She called women of the CoB to raise our consciousness of our relative wealth and privilege and to build relationships by connecting our resources with the essential needs of others.
And the women were compelled by this vision. And Global Women's Project was born!
Today our country and our world is changing - at least as deeply and quickly as in 1978. Tears. Anger. Grief. Fear.
And in the midst of so much suffering we are collaborating better, we are finding more creativity, we are choosing life, we are getting to know our neighbors, we are writing more letters and getting out the vote.
We are sowing tears and harvesting songs of joy.
And we have a lot of tears ahead. So we need each other's stories. We need each other's small reasons for hope, like little Christmas bulbs that together, when we string them up, can light up this corner.