"About 20 rolls of film and a great Sunday hat" are among the things that Emily Buresh expects to bring back from the Fourth National UCC Women's Meeting, being held in Charlotte, N.C., April 27-30. The rolls of film will capture the landscape, a favorite for the fourth-year studio art major at the University of Vermont. The hat will capture something more. "I've always wanted one. A lovely, flamboyant hat with feathers and flowers," Emily says. "I can't find any hats like that in Vermont. But I know they'll have them in the South."
Experiencing others' uniqueness, strength, faith and wisdom is part of the gathering's theme: From Many Streams—A New River. Bringing that river to life during the opening night worship service is an idea brought by the planning committee, whose members include the Rev. Anne Squire, part-time pastor of Plymouth Congregational UCC in East Charleston, Vt., and Emily's mother.
"We [the committee] talked about how to symbolically create a new river," Squire says. Those discussions led to the idea of asking each participant to bring a vial of water from home or some place sacred to them to opening night worship. The waters will be combined during worship to create a new river from many streams.
Emily plans to bring water from Lake Willoughby, a glacier lake in Westmore, Vt., which is sacred to her by family connection—a favorite place of her maternal grandfather. Her mother also plans to bring water from Vermont, but from Brunswick Springs—a place with a ceremonial, sacred connection to the family's Native American heritage. Sharing uniqueness, in Emily and her mother's case, becomes not only multiracial and multicultural, but multigenerational as well.
The Rev. Loey Powell, Executive Director of the UCC's Coordinating Center for Women, says that even the planning for this meeting made it different from the three prior gatherings. "There was greater intentionality in selecting members of the planning committee. All the members were women of color. That was a conscious choice," Powell says. "I was the only Euro-American."
The committee itself was a celebration of the diversity of women, she says, and the plan is to bring that presence to the Women's Meeting.
That presence will be represented by such dynamic spiritual leaders as the Rev. Yvonne Delk, the first African-American woman ordained in the UCC and a former Executive Director of the Office for Church in Society; Alejandrina Torres, a former Puerto Rican political prisoner; and invited speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General.
For Powell, Saturday's workshops on holistic health and wholeness for women are an important focus, "especially as they relate to violence against women," she says. "These issues are not tied to where people live or how much money they make."
Saturday evening's celebrations also will be an important, but sad, time for Powell. "This is our last meeting as CCW, so it's a bittersweet gathering," she says. Saturday evening's celebration will recall the legacy of the Coordinating Center for Women "and will lead us, in an expanding sense," she adds, "into the Center's new life after restructure."
For more information on the Women's Meeting, contact the UCC Coordinating Center for Women, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115; 216-736-2150.
Laurie Bartels is a freelance writer and member of First UCC in Lakewood, Ohio.