Change—hard to accept—hard to implement. But changes are always present and happening and are part of our lives. ELW is experiencing a time of change and challenge. Often as leaders in this organization we are faced with the question of why we even need a women’s organization. I, personally, have come to a better understanding. Allow me to explain.
For those of us who have lost a loved one; our lives are changed forever. We all have experienced challenges, difficulties or changes as we journey through life. God’s presence in our lives guides us though these changes. Last November, my daughter committed suicide.
My family has experienced the faith and love of women and men who have been there to support us, sent flowers, letters, cards, prayers, memorial gifts and phone calls during this difficult time of loss of our beloved daughter, Tricia. The response of those we know and who we do not personally know but who have heard and who care, have overwhelmed me: messages from people in the ELCIC, Congregational ELW’s, ELW members, missionaries, co-workers, family, friends, Anglican Church Women, Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and Lutheran Women’s Missionary League-Canada; knowledge that women from around the world prayed for our family as Ruth Vince received the news while attending an LWF meeting in Switzerland; the network of a caring community in Christ throughout Canada, the United States and throughout the world responded, reaching out to us in that time of terrible grief and loss.
We felt the generous, compassionate, caring spirit we valued in Tricia, in those who have reached out to us and tried to comfort us in our grief. In a book by Corinne Chilstrom (Corinne is an ordained Lutheran pastor and her husband, Bishop Herbert Chilstrom; the first presiding Bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, lived through and beyond the suicide of their son). I quote from Corinne's Book, Andrew, You Died Too Soon, "No words can describe how we are lifted and carried by the communion of saints during such a crisis. Nor can words describe what the communion of saints is. But it is real—a powerful experience—and we are forever grateful." I thank God for the gifts of these thoughtful caring people who are helping us cope during this time of grief and time of change.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
I have a renewed realization of how important ELW is as an organization that is "…a Christ-centered community of women committed to nurturing our faith and spiritual strength, enabling us to be people of God in mission;" and how as women in mission "We respond to the reality of the world around us by entering into the lives of others, supporting and affirming each other and nurturing our faith and spiritual growth though prayer, Bible study and care for each other." I more fully appreciate and understand the opportunity God gives us to make a difference in the lives of others because so many have reached out to us in our time of need, entering our lives and making a difference.
There are others who have been recipients of such strong support and caring because of their association with ELW. This community of women gives something very special to those in need, explaining why this kind of organization is so special. The true depth of this community and its purpose is not tangible. As a community of faithful women, we pray that we can continue to reach out to others—women, men and children—who may be desperate, ill or alone and share God’s love with others who are encountering change within their lives.
One challenge of ELW is our ability to connect with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and to communicate better what we do as an organization and what we want to become. As a National ELW Board, and as Synodical ELW Boards, we are looking to the future, open to diversity in programs and participation. We want to be people in mission and ministry, talking about our faith and action oriented. We want pastors and church leaders to recognize and use our strengths as informed people of God, to recognize and use the resources that ELW has produced, to include ELW as a valuable part of the church’s ministry.
We are aware that there are stereotypes about our ministry, and that there are difficulties in even bringing long-serving dedicated groups to adapt to change. Women currently participating in ELW are diverse in their backgrounds: employed, single, married, with families and retired. We are women who are multi-tasking and who don’t have a lot of time. And we are women questing for spiritual lives in a fast-paced world. As leaders of this organization and as an organization of committed women, with the help of God, we will remain faithful to our ministry.
The National Board has four goals. One is to Shape ELW’s framework. Structure, structure, structure can bog us down. In the British Columbia Synodical ELW, conversation will begin soon as to how to reshape the structure to better meet the needs of women called to leadership roles and the overall structure of ELW.
The second goal is to Manage Resources Effectively. This includes our financial resources, people resources, staff resources. Just as the church has had financial struggles, so has ELW. We have had to reduce staffing at our office, which is located in Winnipeg with the national church office. On the other hand, over the past year, we are pleased to report that we have had an increase in giving and feel that not only have women responded financially, but they are pulling together with new vigor all across the country to figure out how and why this organization is important. We are revising the way we are distributing paper resources, and encourage all of you to consider Canadian Lutheran written theologically reviewed Bible studies and other resources on many topics when you are planning events. Resources focus on worship materials, devotions, topical programs, leadership development and just plain fun items.
The third goal is to Strengthen Organizational Relationships. We have been in a close relationship with the Anglican Church Women, encouraging and offering our support to them as they try to officially organize themselves. We work with the ELCIC at our office and are striving to understand each other better in times of change.
Not only in the office do we want to have greater understanding of our relationship, we also want to connect with church leadership—those who have contact with ELW, and those who do not have contact with ELW—to foster an up-to-date understanding of what ELW contributes to the life of the ELCIC.
CLWR and ELW are working on the Alternative Trade Project to sell and market items from developing countries, in order to encourage empowerment and self-sufficiency for the producers of the crafts.
We have partnered with the ELCIC youth to Cry Out for Peace by encouraging dialogue and action against violence.
As LWF Regional Coordinator for Women in Church and Society, Ruth Vince with has linked with women around the world.
And, lastly we want to inspire passion to enable and empower all women for service. Jeanne Fomgbami was ELW’s International Guest during 2002. She traveled across Canada and through her presentations, gave great testimony to her faith and challenged us in our faith.
Esprit magazine continues to be read by many, and not just by ELW members. We have word that many men also enjoy this magazine. At the 2002 Canadian Church Press Convention, the magazine received the AC Forrest Memorial Award Honourable Mention for an article (Winter 2002 Esprit, "Promising to Break the Silence", by Ruth Vince). This award is given for excellence in religious journalism. Esprit has won many awards over the years.
We genuinely want to encourage you to be with us, to explore new paths with us, to journey with us. Which brings us to inviting you to join us next summer at the ELW Convention in Winnipeg, July 8-11. Come, Walking By Faith: Enter the Labyrinth, Walk the Paths and Rejoice in the Gift! All are welcome! You might be surprised at the energy and life you will find there!!
We are hoping that, by naming our weaknesses, using our strengths and being open to God’s word and way, ELW will continue to be a blessing to the ELCIC, our communities and to many around the world.