One-week campaign seeks monthly gifts toward leadership development for women in ministry
The Antoinette Brown Society is launching a one-week membership drive to support the gifts of women in ministry in the United Church of Christ.
The effort starts Friday, May 20 — the birthday of the pioneering minister for whom the society is named.
The goal is to enlist 500 people to make recurring monthly gifts of at least $20 to support the society’s work. The campaign’s donation form is here.
That work includes these current emphases, said the Rev. Tara Barber, the UCC national staffer who works with the society:
- Raising up clergywomen who are Black, Indigenous and people of color.
- Creating ministry possibilities for all who are at “the intersections of gender, race, age, orientation, ableism” and recognizing their gifts and talents.
How gifts help
Barber said members’ gifts support the society’s expanding efforts in partnership with:
- Search-and-call processes in the UCC’s conferences and associations
- The Council for Racial and Ethnic Ministries
- African American Women in Ministry
- The cabinet of the Council of Conference Ministers and the Alliance of Associate Conference Ministers
The work requires “relationships where the experiences of marginalized clergywomen are centered and shared,” Barber said.
One place for “getting more people in the room together” will be the society’s biennial Clergywomen’s Leadership Event, set for Sept. 27-29. Details on it will be announced soon. “We hope to include 150 online participants – nearly tripling the participation in that event alone,” she said.
“From there, we have talked about ways to continue relationships year-round in small groups, with leadership development opportunities and likely new gatherings with our partnering bodies. We will be using the society’s web page to share resources and opportunities for growth and connection – all of which will take time and resources.”
She said members — including those who sign up during the May 20-27 campaign — “will receive resources and articles, be invited to early registration, and receive a discount for future gatherings.” Donors’ names will appear at the society’s web page.
The society, formed in 2015, carries on a long UCC tradition of advocacy in the name of Antoinette Brown, the first woman ordained to the Christian ministry since biblical times. Since 1975, the Antoinette Brown Awards, honoring outstanding clergywomen, have been featured at each biennial General Synod.
As noted at that page, there has been progress since Brown’s ordination in 1853: “Today women serve in small churches and large ones, as senior ministers and interim pastors, as pastoral counselors and hospice chaplains, as executive directors and conference ministers.”
Yet there is much work to do, the site says. “Many of today’s clergywomen are still ‘firsts’ like Antoinette: the first female pastor of a church or the first female director of a non-profit.”
“Through the Antoinette Brown Society, we will work toward the day when innovative women’s leadership is the expectation rather than the exception, and until that day, we will invest in women in ministry, knowing that we may still be pioneers but we are no longer alone,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Dilley. She heads the UCC’s Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization team, which provides staff support to the society.
Discerning what’s next
The society’s own leadership team, including these ordained UCC ministers, guides its work:
- Conference Minister Lorraine Ceniceros of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference
- Senior Pastor Sheila Guillaume of Union Congregational UCC, West Palm Beach, Fla.
- Site Director Tracy Heilman of Tower Hill Camp, Illinois Conference
- Pastor Bernice Powell Jackson of First United Church of Tampa, Fla.
- Executive Minister for Operations Audrey Price of the Southern New England Conference
- Clergy Coach Martha Spong
- Minister of Church Vitality Courtney Stange-Tregear of the Pacific Northwest Conference
Barber said MESA earmarks all gifts to the society — including monthly ones — for the society’s ongoing work. Discerning what’s next is part of what those gifts support, she said. “Through our partnerships, the Antoinette Brown Society leadership team will learn more of what additional work is before us.”
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