Mennonite Church USA conventions provide opportunity for people from all parts of the church and all parts of the U.S. to meet together for worship, fellowship, and doing the work of the church. Our diversity is reflected in skin color, language, and in our interests and needs.
Mennonite Women USA reflects that diversity as well. Women from all avenues of work, education, and cultures meet together for dinner at convention to hear about the work of MW USA. A convention dinner highlight was at Pittsburgh 2011 when we honored Rhoda Keener for her ten years of work as executive director for MW USA, and her 60th birthday at the same time. This was a public event to say thank you in a joyful celebration, presenting then executive director Rhoda Keener with a check for over $12,000 for the MW USA endowment in honor of her work.
For the Phoenix 2013 convention, board secretary Marie Harnish (from First Mennonite Church in Indianapolis) created a beautiful t-shirt quilt that was raffled off. The display at our booth, including this amazing quilt, afforded us lots of traffic and interest. We also sold t-shirts, designed by Timbrel editor Claire DeBerg. These t-shirts allowed for the purchaser to complete the statement: “I am a Mennonite woman. Watch me ____”. Purchasers of the shirts carefully considered how to complete that statement, and proudly wore their shirts. My favorite was done by Karen Kreider Yoder, who walked away to contemplate what to write, and returned several hours later, inspired to fill in the blank, “Watch me ‘extend the table,’” which she said had not to do so much with cooking, as to opening herself to diversity of persons she wants to be present at her table.
Just as important as these tangible things are the relationships that are developed and nurtured at convention. Many people stop by the booth to share the good news of their uses of the current Bible study guide, to express appreciation for Timbrel magazine, and to talk about how Sister Care has been important to an individual or group. As staff persons for MW USA we have the distinct joy of saying thank you to the leaders who have graciously guided the work of conference and congregational MW groups; we say thank you to women and men who have prayed for us and have provided financial support to MW USA. We greet individuals who have become friends as a result of our shared love and appreciation for MW USA.
As a long-established organization within Mennonite Church USA, rooted in both the former General Conference Mennonites (Women in Mission) and the Mennonite Church (Women’s Mission and Service Commission), Mennonite Women USA has weathered many challenges over the years and we are so grateful to Mennonite Church USA for the privilege of sharing in the vision of “healing and hope” through our mission “to empower women and women’s groups to nurture their life in Christ through Bible study, hearing each other, using our gifts, and in mission and service.”