When I was in high school, I attended the Lamon Avenue Methodist Church in the Austin area and then left the church for about 20 years. When I returned to United Methodism it was at the Church of the Incarnation in Arlington Heights.
It was at that church when we got a new minister in 2006. I attended his first Charge Conference as the Worship Committee Chair. In the Conference booklet, all the committees and chairs were listed. There was one committee—Committee on Status and Role of Women—where the chair position was blank. I inquired why there was no chair and was told no one would take the position. I couldn’t believe it! A committee about women and no one would chair it!
Everyone said, “You take it.” I reminded them that I was already the Worship Chair, but by the end of the conference meeting I was the Committee on Status and Role of Women Chair. I couldn’t stand the idea of the position remaining unfilled. At that moment, I didn’t even know what the committee was about.
All of the twists and turns that my life took and which I survived allowed me the confidence to step into the role of Committee on Status and Role of Women Chair without knowing anything about it.
Local Committees on Status and Role of Women fall under the direction of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, which is one of thirteen general agencies in the United Methodist Church. It is, I believe, unique to The United Methodist Church. I’ve done a little research and can’t find any similar organizations in any other denominations.
Looking to the General Commission of the Status and Role of Women for support, I pretty much designed the position in my local congregation as I went. I write a monthly newsletter article called “Women in the Church.” I cover international news, national news and my local church news highlighting achievements of women in the church and pointing out discrimination against women around the world. I also preach at my congregation every March, commemorating Women’s History Month.
In 2006, I attend the 50th anniversary of the granting of full clergy rights for women in The United Methodist Church. I got to see the women bishops march in singing “We Are Marching in the Light of God.”
I met and heard Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader preach. She preached about Esther. If you’ve never read the Book of Esther or it’s been a long time, read it tonight. Her story personally changed me.
To summarize: Esther was a young Jewish orphan living in ancient Persia. She was adopted and raised by her older cousin Mordecai. When King Ahasuerus announced his search for a new queen, he hosted a royal beauty pageant and Esther was chosen for the throne. Her cousin Mordecai became a minor official in the Persian government of Susa.
At this same time, the king's highest official was a wicked man named Haman. He hated the Jews and he especially hated Mordecai, who had refused to bow down to him.
So, Haman devised a scheme to have every Jew in Persia killed. Mordecai learned of the plan and shared it with Esther and urged her to go to the King. However, any man or woman who approached the king in the inner court without being summoned was to be put to death unless the king spared their lives. At first she objected, but Mordecai said to her:
"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13-14, NIV)
Then Esther said, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16, NIV)
Here is what her story means for all of us. When you feel a call from God to get involved in a situation, but then hesitate because it may be too messy or too hard or too unpleasant, remember you may be the woman for just such a time as this. We are all women for times such as these. Depending on the situation, you may take Esther’s declaration “If I perish, I perish,” literally or figuratively.
Keep in mind that God always has your back. As women of the church you must never be afraid. What we tend to do in the United States is to defer to those who have access to a microphone: athletes, politicians, actors, entertainers, journalists. They have the right to their opinion, but they don’t have the right to have their opinion regarded as more important than yours. Your life is invaluable because you are a child of God. Money, power, and fame don’t define you.
God created male and female. He did not create male and secretary or male and waitress. Jesus gave you beautiful things to think about and beautiful ways to behave. He has filled you with love, compassion, and the spirit of forgiveness as you walk your spiritual path.
When you ask yourself, women of the church, “What have I contributed? What am I worth?” look in the mirror and smile and say with certainty, “I am priceless.”
This blog post is edited and condensed from a speech Kathy delivered to the Chicago Northwest District of the UMW on September 26, 2015.