Top Ten Success Principles for Career Women

by Dr. Larine Y. Cowan, PhD

Pray Often and Put Christ First

The Bible teaches us in numerous scriptures the importance of putting and keeping Christ first in our daily lives. Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So, for Christian women, putting Christ first must be the number one principle when striving for success in one’s career and in life generally.

Prepare

For any career choice, one must get prepared. Do your research. Find out what skills are needed in order to be successful in your chosen field. There are those in ministry who subscribe to the thinking that all they are required to do is pray and the Good Lord will supply their every need. They don’t have to prepare when asked to speak or participate in strategy meetings or when counseling parishioners. They say the Lord will tell them what to say and what to do. It’s true, the Lord can do everything that they’re saying, and some people may be blessed in that way. However, some of us must do our part and study the Bible so that we are knowledgeable and better able to faithfully follow Jesus, and teach others how to live a Christian life. So, preparation is just as critical for women clergy as it is for women in other professions.

Once you have completed your research on what is required to be successful in a particular area, then be willing to put in the work to learn your business from the ground up.

Get a good education. Depending on your area of interest, you may need a college degree, an advanced degree, professional school or other types of specialized training.

Also, identify someone who is already successful in your profession and learn as much about that person’s strategies and principles that they applied in order to achieve their success.

Develop Self Confidence

Very early in my life, I can’t recall exactly when, but I purchased a small book that was based on Proverbs 23:7. That little book taught me that whoever and whatever I thought of myself would determine how I presented myself to the world. That Christian principle has been most powerful in my development. It has guided and directed me in my professional and personal life for many years! And it continues to do so, even today! Women in the clergy, like women in other careers, can benefit from this principle. Because unfortunately, women in ministry face many of the same challenges that other women experience in the workplace. Issues like under representation, unequal pay, and fewer promotional opportunities are common problems. Therefore, women must develop a strong sense of self confidence in order to achieve their goals.

Listen

Be a good listener. Really listen when others are speaking. Frequently, when someone else is speaking, we’re thinking about our response. I’ve learned that when you focus on what others are saying, you can actually gain important information from them. You also validate that person and the give and take process is deeper, richer and more meaningful. Listening is an essential art for success.

Be Inclusive

When I speak of inclusion, I’m thinking about two factors. First, be open and when appropriate, involve others in the discussion and the decision-making process. It is important to brain storm and exchange ideas and strategies. 

Second, when possible, seek to work with a diverse team of people from various backgrounds, such as people from different racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, social, and gender backgrounds and people with various physical abilities. Significant research has shown that diversity and inclusion in these areas greatly contribute to our knowledge base and overall success in the workplace and in society overall.

Maintain Integrity

Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God…” Although this verse can be used to remind us to put Christ first in our lives; it can also remind us to maintain our integrity as Christians. When we remember that we are ambassadors for Christ, and whatever we do or say, is in the name of Jesus, then we strive harder to make good decisions based on integrity and fairness. When people know that you’re honest and trustworthy, you gain a level of respect that can be more valuable than money, which many feel is the ultimate measure of success.

Mentor Others

Set aside time to help others. Whether they are members of your team or you’re volunteering as a mentor, make time to give back, even as you’re on your journey to success. Although women have made significant strides in just the last ten to twenty years, with the election of the first woman Vice President, a record number of women in congress, elected as governors, mayors, and women rising to leadership positions in the military, education, business, industry and in our religious institutions, women still face many challenges, thus mentoring is essential to helping our fellow sisters achieve their goals in life.

Subscribe to Continuous Learning

Because of technology, daily, there is literally so much new information that one must commit to constantly learning in order to just stay abreast of what is happening in the world. We must constantly learn to gain and maintain expertise in a particular area. In order to be successful and to keep that success, one must continue to sharpen their skills, expand knowledge and be willing to re-examine policies, procedures, values, and assumptions and to learn and implement new methods, practices and policies when needed.

Continuous learners seek out others who spend their time learning new skills and thinking critically about society in general. In other words, continuous personal development is key to becoming and maintaining success.

Health and Wellness

In order to give one’s best, one must be in good health! One must be well! Most highly successful people take care of their physical and mental health. Of course, I would add one must also take care of their spiritual health as well. Most women are overwhelmed with responsibilities both at home and in the workplace, so they seldom take time for themselves. Successful women develop a good support team at home and especially in the workplace. Successful women ensure the success of their team members by improving their qualifications through training and exposure. Then they are able to comfortably delegate important responsibilities to others and share the challenges in the workplace. At home, women with families, learn to involve all family members in performing chores so that they are not overly burdened.

To achieve good spiritual and mental health, I subscribe to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God and God will make straight your path.” For good physical health, eat clean foods, exercise and take care of yourself.

“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own to do list!” -Michelle Obama, Former First Lady.

Balance Work and Personal Life with Family and Friends

Having “balance” is key to success! When successful women spend too much time on their careers, often their family life suffers and may result in failure. So, it’s critical for successful women to learn to use balance early on in their careers.

In addition to the many demands on the job, working women must also balance challenges from their immediate family, spouse and children, as well as providing care for aging parents.

Work life balance is critical to maintaining productivity, healthy stress levels, and good mental and physical health. The challenge of work life balance is learning to keep one’s priorities straight.  Make sure you have someone in your life who can hold you accountable to balancing work and life well. 

The Bible reminds us that, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2, NLT).


Dr. Larine Cowan has more than 35 years experience in Human Resources and Community Engagement with the City of Champaign, IL and the University of Illinois. She also taught as an adjunct professor for women’s leadership development.

Nevertheless, She Preached

by Dr. Ashley Boggan Dreff

Author’s Statement Added on 3/27/2021

This article was clarified on 3/27/2021 at the request of the author, myself Ashley B. Dreff. In attempts to be more intentionally inclusive of Black Methodist women, I was unintentionally exclusive of Black Methodist denominational histories. I embodied the white Methodism that I was attempting to dismantle. For this, I take full responsibility and offer my clarifications and sincerest apologies. Jarena Lee and Sojourner Truth were members of the African Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal Zion denominations, respectively. These denominations left the Methodist Episcopal Church in the early nineteenth-century because of the white supremacy and racist biblical interpretations of white Methodist clergy and lay persons. Their legacies live on in those denominations today. It was wrong of me to explicitly name “United Methodism” without also naming African Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal Zion. In true Wesleyan spirit, I will seek to continue to strive for perfection when it comes to detailing and honoring our pasts.

“O how careful ought we to be, lest through our by-laws of church government and discipline, we bring into disrepute even the word of life. For as unseemly as it may appear now-a-days for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God.” — Jarena Lee, Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee, 1849

From the pulpit to the podium, from the preaching circuit to the campaign trail, Methodist women have broken barrier upon barrier, ensuring not only their successes but the successes of future generations. The handful of women highlighted in these next few paragraphs skim the surface of those who have changed the religious and political landscapes, primarily in the United States. There are countless others whose stories have yet to be told or uncovered. But as we celebrate Women’s History month, let us acknowledge the persistence of these women.

Jarena Lee, member of the African Methodist Episcopal church, felt a call to preach twice in her life. When she informed Bishop Allen after experiencing her first call, he told her that the church Discipline, “did not call for women preachers.” Jarena was actually relieved by this information as it removed the social burden from her of becoming a public figure in a time when women were demeaned for daring to step out of their so-called “proper place.” She wrote, “This I was glad to hear, because it removed the fear of the cross.” However, her call to ministry came again. 

In her journal she recollects her second call, a call which came eight years later. She was listening to Rev. Richard Williams preach at Mother Bethel on Jonah 2:9, and, as she records, “he seemed to have lost the spirit.” In this moment, she writes, “I sprang, as by altogether supernatural impulse, to my feet, when I was aided from above to give an exhortation on the very text which my brother Williams had taken.” The words that proceed from her mouth describe her relationship to the text and her denial of her call to preach eight years prior. Upon recollection of her testimony she writes, “During the exhortation, God made manifest [God’s] power in a manner sufficient to show the world that I was called to labour according to my ability, and the grace given unto me, in the vineyard of the good husbandman.” She felt God’s power residing in her, leading her to this moment. When she was finished exhorting, she recalls, “I now sat down, scarcely knowing what I had done, being frightened. I imagined, that for this indecorum, as I feared it might be called, I should be expelled from the church. But instead of this, the Bishop [Allen] rose up in the assembly, and related that I had called upon him eight years before, asking to be permitted to preach, and that he had put me off; but that he now as much believed that I was called to that work, as any of the preachers present. These remarks greatly strengthened me, so that my fears of having given an offense, and made myself liable as an offender, subsided, giving place to a sweet serenity, a holy joy of a peculiar kind, untasted in my bosom until then.” Despite being told originally that she wasn’t allowed to preach, Jarena listened to and embodied the Spirit of God for nevertheless, Jarena preached. 

When asked about the history of women preaching within the Methodist tradition or within the Christian tradition, I always turn to the story of Jarena Lee. She was a free Black woman living at the beginning of the nineteenth-century. She feels a call to preach but knows deep down that embodying that call is dangerous for it would place her as a social outcast, as someone who dares to believe that they have the authority to speak on behalf of God in a public setting. She is relieved when she’s told by her Bishop that she isn’t allowed to preach. But the Spirit doesn’t leave her. For eight years she resists this call until she can no longer do so. And when she lives into that call, she is actually supported by the very Bishop who had previously told her it was improper. 

Jarena’s story is a rare one. It was quite rare to have male religious authorities actually support women preaching.

This story, in my eyes, relates to the story of other Methodist women (and non-Methodist women) who have been told that they are not qualified to be leaders, who have been ridiculed for dreaming big dreams, who have been told to sit down and shut-up. For how often, even in 2021, are women told that they are not good enough to be leaders? That they’re too assertive, too ambitious, or too shy and home-like? That their sex is not becoming of a preacher? That they are not pretty enough to occupy a pulpit or that they are too pretty to occupy a pulpit? That their very presence (i.e. their bodies) is too distracting for persons to focus on God? How often are women told that they are to be submissive to their husbands, because that’s what Scripture dictates. Or does it?

For millennia, women have been intentionally written out of the Christian narrative. Their submissive roles have been assigned to them by the leaders of society and by those who write history—not by biblical mandates. Their theologies, stories, missions, calls, and contributions have been pushed aside, deemed improper, unauthoritative, unimportant. But women have continued on. They kept writing, kept preaching, kept calling others to God. They maintained missions, wrote declarations, gave speeches. They occupied pulpits, legislatures, and homes.

In more recent memory, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a proud United Methodist, was speaking against the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to become Attorney General. In response to her speech, Senator Mitch McConnell, who was at the time Senate Majority Leader, invoked a rule to silence Sen. Warren saying, “Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech . . . . She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Jarena, too, was warned, given an explanation, and nevertheless she, too, persisted for nevertheless, she preached.

Countless Methodist women have had this experience when called to preach, and they, too, have persisted in their ministries, whether those ministries are in the pulpit, the mission field, the episcopacy, or the political arena. 

Susanna Wesley, the mother of Methodism, was told to be silent, to stop leading. While her husband, Samuel, was on a trip to London, Samuel left their parish in the hands of Rev. Inman. Finding his sermons lacking sustenance, Susanna began hosting Sunday afternoon gatherings in her home where songs were sung, psalms read, and Susanna preached. Word got out about Susanna’s so-called inappropriate religious meetings, and she wrote a letter to Samuel to try to get ahead of the news. In his reply, he asked her to cease the meetings. She responded, “If after all this you think fit to dissolve this assembly, do not tell me you desire me to do it, for that will not satisfy my conscience; but send your positive command in such full and express terms as may absolve me from all guilt and punishment for neglecting this opportunity for doing good when you and I shall appear before the great and awful tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, she felt called to preach in her husband’s absence and wanted to ensure that if she stopped that he would be held responsible for impeding the Spirit of God, not her. Nevertheless, Susanna preached.

The spirit of God manifesting itself in and through women continued into the nineteenth-century. An enslaved woman had an immense religious experience at a Methodist camp meeting that resulted in her taking the name, Sojourner Truth, and aligning herself with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion tradition. After escaping slavery, she joined the woman’s suffrage lecture circuit where she gave one of the most memorable speeches of her time. In Ain’t I a Woman? Sojourner calls out the different ways that white women and Black women were treated. She criticized the way that men repeatedly go out of their way to help white women but Black women are left to their own accord. Despite this egregious misogynoir, Sojourner’s point in the speech is to address the inconsistencies that men made about women not deserving equal rights before the law because Jesus was a man. She says, “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.” She continues, “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.” In these few lines, Sojourner Truth connects the stories of Mary, mother of Jesus, and Eve, the alleged-first sinner. She connects the two most powerful women in the Scriptures. She uses these references to show that no matter what, women in the nineteenth century, would persist, and in their persistence the world might once again be made right.

Anna Howard Shaw felt a call to preach while a teenager. Her family threatened to disown her is she dared live into that call. But she couldn’t resist. She enrolled in Boston School of Theology, the only woman of her class. The men who studied alongside her were given free room and board and a guaranteed appointment. Anna was not. She had to pay for her apartment, find her own food, and hope that she would be paid in cash, not compliments (or insults) for her preaching. In her autobiography, she recalls overcoming the fear of starvation for the sake of her call to ministry. Anna went on to also earn a medical degree and to be president of the National American for Woman Suffrage Association. She is one of the first women ordained in the Methodist tradition. After graduating Boston School of Theology, the Methodist Episcopal Church refused her ordination, based solely on her gender. She transferred to the Methodist Protestant tradition where her ordination was granted in 1880. Despite being treated so differently from her male peers, Anna preached.

These women’s persistence paved the way for others. One hundred years after Anna, in 1980, Marjorie Matthews was the first woman elected Bishop in The United Methodist Church and in a mainline Protestant denomination. In later interviews, Bishop Matthews recalled the obstacles that she had to overcome, not as a Bishop, but as a female preacher: “They would tell people in my church they were going to hell for having a woman minister.” But, nevertheless, she preached.

Lifting as she climbed, Bishop Matthews broke the stained-glass ceiling for others like Leontine T. Kelly, the first Black woman elected Bishop. Bishop Kelly recalled a story from her baptism when the Bishop who baptized her said, ““How I wish you were a boy, so that my mantle could fall on you.” In 1983, the then Rev. Kelly was endorsed as a candidate for the episcopacy, but was not nominated for this role by her home jurisdiction, the Southeast. It was the Western Jurisdiction that had the courage to break barriers, electing Bishop Leontine Kelly as the second woman and first woman of color to serve as bishop. Bishop Kelly lived into the notion that the work of the Spirit, the call of God, knows no barriers, those of gender or of jurisdiction.

Methodist women in the political sphere have also moved mountains and broken ceilings. In 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton, another proud United Methodist, was the first woman nominated to run for President of the United States as the candidate of a major political party. On her campaign trail, she often quoted John Wesley and credited her Methodist upbringing with the phrase, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” In her work as Senator and as Secretary of State, Clinton centered the care of women and girls around the globe, again living into a Methodist mandate and Methodist emphasis. Her groundbreaking nomination paved the way for other women to seek and hold this high-office, women like, now, Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian woman to hold an office this high in the United States (but certainly not the last!). Like others before them, Kamala and Hillary faced undue pressure and high expectations. They were judged prior to opening their mouths based solely on their gender, and in Kamala’s case, the color of their skin. They knew going into debates or speeches that every word and movement would be judged not for its merits (or lack thereof) but because a woman dare say it. Women approaching the political stage or the pulpit face the same stigma, the same high standard, the same pre-conceived notions. They have to intentionally, and gracefully, claim their space. This is perhaps no more apparent than when, after repeated interruptions, Kamala dared tell, then, Vice President Mike Pence, “I’m Speaking.” 

“I’m speaking.” Those two small words spoke volumes. With them, Kamala claimed her place, her space on the podium. She insisted that she be heard. Kamala spoke these words with a smile on her face and with a steady, assertive sense of place. It should be noted that these words of hers came in stark contrast to the invective rife on both sides during the presidential debate, overtly enacting white privilege as a white male speaking to another while male while on a public stage. Nevertheless, Kamala spoke her truth. 

Many things strike me as I reflect on these women, Methodist and non. But one thing that certainly sticks out is their ambition. Susanna, Jarena, Sojourner, Leontine, Hillary, Elizabeth, and Kamala all faced obstacles in their lives particularly when it came to their speaking in public. They were told to sit down, to shut-up, to assume their “proper place.” But they didn’t. They were called. They preached. They persisted. And now it’s our turn to pick up where they left off and to continue to find our own places and spaces to persist and say, “I’m speaking.”


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Dr. Ashley Boggan Dreff is the General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History. She is the author of Nevertheless: American Methodists and Women’s Rights (2020) and Entangled: A History of Methodism, Politics, and Sexuality (2018). Dreff earned her PhD from Drew Theological School’s Graduate Division of Religion, specializing in both Methodist/Wesleyan Studies and Women’s/Gender Studies. She earned an M.A. from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, specializing in American Religious History. She has previously worked as staff at the General Commission on Archives and History (2012-2014) and the Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church (2014-2016). She was the Director of United Methodist Studies and Assistant Professor Christian History at Hood Theological Seminary (Salisbury, NC), an AME Zion Seminary, from 2017-2019 and was the Director of Women’s and Gender Studies and Assistant Professor of Religion at High Point University (High Point, NC) from 2019-2020. Dreff is a lay member of the Arkansas Annual Conference and the daughter of two ordained United Methodist ministers. Her Methodist lineage dates beyond this, back to the early 19th century when her great-great-great grandfathers were Methodist circuit-riders.

A Woman’s Right to Life

by Rev. Pamela Pirtle, Director of Leadership Development & Accountability, GCSRW

It was the year 1851, in Akron, Ohio when Sojourner Truth gave her now-famous speech at the Women’s Rights Convention.  Sojourner emphasized the phrase “Ain’t I a Woman?” four times as an expression for equal rights for African American women.  She spoke of the equality that was due to all women regardless of the color of their skin.  It has been 169 years since that day when she spoke up for African American women to be given the same rights as their non-Black counterparts.  Though we have made many milestones during the course of 169 years, we are still seeking equal rights for Black women in comparison to others.

Breonna Taylor was a daughter, a big sister, a niece, a dear friend, and someone who cared for those who were vulnerable due to illness.  She loved her work as an emergency room medical technician and hoped to continue her education in healthcare.  Her friends and family describe her as someone who enjoyed putting a smile on the faces of others.  She seemed to have a happy disposition and a smile that would light a room.

But on the morning of March 13, 2020, her light was snuffed out.  While she lay sleeping in her bed, law enforcement officials entered her apartment under a “no-knock warrant” in an effort to capture another individual who did not live there.  The details of this incident are still under review.  However, what is troubling is how this information did not reach mainstream media attention for almost two months after her violent death.  Where is the outrage?  Where is the accountability?  Was Breonna’s life of any less value because she is a Black woman?  We must ask why this case, and so many others, have been disconnected from the broader narrative of police brutality against Blacks.  Unfortunately, Black women have too often been the invisible victims of police violence.  For this very reason, activists have used the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the countless Black women who have lost their lives due to police brutality.

Some have argued that in many ways, women are not equal to men, or that women are in some way lacking virtue.  Unfortunately, being both Black and female can be a double negative that makes suffering in silence a daily part of life.  Breonna’s story was handled by media and others like an unfortunate casualty rather than the violent murder that has been expressed for the senseless deaths of Black men.

As Christians, we are reminded of ourselves in Genesis 1:27 that everyone is made in the image of God and therefore, should be treated humanely and with respect.  If being created in God’s image means that we are, an image of God the Creator, a representation of who God is, then how can we devalue one group of persons over another?  If we believe we are made in God’s image, then our view of God and our relationship with our Creator are also intertwined.  Therefore, we must believe in the sacredness of all human life, regardless of gender, race, or any other demographic that has been used to divide us.

We must recognize that every human being has been created in God’s image.  Everyone then becomes one of God’s image-bearers.  This knowing should guide how we conduct ourselves toward others at all times, remembering the least of these.  Every woman has a right to live and prosper.  “We affirm with scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God.  We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another[i]…” Therefore, let us work to create a more just society where the lives of all persons are held as sacred.

GCSRW stands against racism graphic_upload

Contemplative Moment and Reflection

What phrase resonates with me?  Why should I care about this?  What can I do about it?

Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for your loving-kindness that extends to all humanity.  Help us to live by your principles of freedom and justice.  Oh God, in these turbulent times, help us to remove the barriers that separate us from one another.  Make us one to walk in holy peace together.  Amen.


[i] Book of Discipline Part V, Social Principles, Paragraph 161.F.

No Justice, No Peace!

by Rev. Pamela Pirtle, Director of Leadership Development & Accountability, GCSRW

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”                                                                                                                              -Ephesians 5:11

If kneeling is an act of reverence for that which one holds sacred, in honor and is committed in devotion to, what happened on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis?  How does someone kneel on the back of another man’s neck, hear his cries for release from trauma, calling for his mother, and yet continue in this act of worship?  This scene showed what the officer held as sacred in his heart by kneeling on that man’s neck, was a worship of hatred so deep, so dark, many of us cannot comprehend it.

Therefore, maybe when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem it wasn’t a sign of disrespect after all, but rather a sign of his respect, holding this country and Black lives as honorable and sacred.   Yet, he was villainized and made to feel like less than an American citizen because of the color of his skin.  His freedom of speech was violated; essentially taking his breath away.  But this officer in Minneapolis knelt on a man’s neck, crushing his breath as if he were less than human.  In doing so the officer and his colleagues declared themselves superior and victorious venerating racism and deep hatred.

The video of George Floyd’s murder has shaken this country because it is a reminder of the rampant culture of hatred that has been a part of this country’s dark history to enforce white supremacy for more than 400 years.  This is based on a set of beliefs that every soul is not equal, nor deserving of life itself.  But, if we’re all made in the image of God, then every life matters to God.

This devotion is simply a call to action for every person who professes to be a Christian and believes in the God in whom all are created, the giver of life, the one who gives us the breath that George Floyd was losing by the minute when he yelled, “I can’t breathe!”  The Bible reminds us that as people of faith, we are not only called to represent Christ in the earth by gathering in worship centers where we kneel collectively in honor of God.  We are called to use the breath God gave us to speak out against the evils of hatred that have permeated our society.

If we are going to live like Jesus we have to speak out against the oppression of all persons and critique their mistreatment.  Jesus showed this example countless times when he refused to be silent about the inequities that persisted in his day.  The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once stated:

“We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness…by showing a real sympathy that springs from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer…The Christian is called to sympathy and action.”

Let us pray:  God grant that we will be participants in doing good, in taking the high way, in standing together in unity seeking your justice, your peace, your highest good for all humankind.  Amen.

Black lives Matter graphic

The Way of Integrity: Kindness, Respect, and Consideration

Every day we are inundated with information regarding COVID 19.  It helps us understand the virus, prevent the spread of the virus, and accept responsibility to care for ourselves and others.  Despite constant medical warnings, I am amazed at the number of people who continue to refuse to wear a mask. They rationalize that “it is not good for my immune system,” “I don’t think it helps anything,” and “it is uncomfortable to wear one, especially when I am talking or exercising.”  These reactions fail to consider that wearing a mask is about protecting OTHERS, especially those who are more vulnerable, from YOU, in the event you have the virus and are not showing symptoms.

This virus, just like all natural disasters, is a call to move beyond our self-centered impulses into deeper caring for our neighbors.

Within my Chicago neighborhood, signs are in many windows and sidewalk chalk art is everywhere.  I love being reminded of the importance of messages such as these:

BE KIND

WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER

CONSIDER OTHERS

Teresa Welborn chalk image

Reading and seeing the messages invites me to become more intentional in practicing this behavior. It is why I’m excited to talk about “The Way of Integrity” a resource from GCSRW. This resource is designed as a four-part study, grounded in scripture and inviting each person to enter into deep reflection around the ways we interact with one another every day. Modeled in part on the Emory Integrity Project at Emory University, the resource was developed as a result of concerns shared by many across The UMC regarding belittling, demeaning, and degrading verbal expressions within our faith communities toward one another. We can do better.

Integrity, that deep honoring of one another, is too often missing. And when this happens, it reveals that people are thinking primarily of themselves. Consideration for the other is not part of the interaction. Kindness, respect, and deep honoring are absent.

I invite you to ponder this question:

How important is it to you that people respect one another?

“The Way of Integrity” is designed to be adaptable in any ministry setting including sermons, youth groups, Sunday school and small group classes, campus ministry, camping ministry, and many others. Suggestions for use in each of these ministries are included in the materials for participants and facilitators.  The first lesson centers around our values and what is important to each of us. Scripture which includes the Golden Rule provides a place for reflection. When have you paused to consider the words, “do unto others as you would have them do to you?” Can people know your values simply by the way you live life? The Way of Integrity invites you into deep questioning. It encourages you to be open to self-growth by leaving behind old ways of thinking that separate you from others.

Are you willing to consider ways you can be kinder, more considerate, and respectful to others? It is helpful to observe where you have resistance to this question.

We need community more than ever and this includes people who may look and think differently from one another.

Every day we wake up with the option of being better than before. Even the smallest change will have a rippling effect on everything it touches. How exciting to think you will be the one to set the ripple in motion!

You can download The Way of Integrity on our websites at gcsrw.org or umsexualethics.org

Or you may email me at bwilliams@gcsrw.org and request a copy be mailed to you.

We look forward to hearing the ways you choose to use this resource.