Jesus’ teaching on the cost of discipleship in Luke 14 reminds us the importance of God’s holy family. Even if our earthly family gave us a positive, nurturing, and Christian example in life, we must never forget that our place in God’s family is the most important.
On Sunday afternoon, I was thinking about how the church often lives out this biblical ideal. Hopefully, in coming together to worship God, we start viewing ourselves as one big family united in Christ. It’s no wonder we often refer to fellow church members as sisters and brothers in Christ!
One way the Methodist church has put this “Christian family” idea into practice has been the ministry of the United Methodist Women. The UMW movement with the church was started in 1869 with only 8 devoted women. Now, that number is over 800,000 in official membership. And it goes without saying we were definitely blessed yesterday with the leadership and talents of Concord’s own Methodist Women as we celebrated UMW Sunday!
The overall history of the UMW is truly inspiring, but here are a few highlights:
- The original 1869 group sought to help people through international missions. Specifically, a group of women in Boston were moved to action after meeting a couple missionary spouses. These missionary wives told the group about a massive crisis in India. Women at the time had little access to medical care, schooling, and spiritual enrichment.
- This first UMW group immediately raised the money to send an educator and doctor, Isabella Thoburn and Dr. Clara Swain, to help out with this need. Another fun fact–the school and clinic started by these two missionaries still operate today!
- Past UMW groups have consistently worked to promote the wellbeing of people internationally, from Central America, Africa, to as far as Asia.
- Methodist Women’s Societies often promoted youth education and welcomed young members for their outreach projects.
- Throughout its history, the UMW have tackled many social and ethical dilemmas facing the world, including educating freed slaves after the Civil War, working to overcome racism several decades before the Civil Rights era, and advocating for adequate school funding. Even during one unique instance, the UMW specifically worked to minister to Mormon women who had been abused because of the polygamy system!
I would encourage you to read more about the history in the linked websites below. It really is inspiring in the world of missions and what the church can accomplish… not to mention the countless friendships between Christian women in everyday, local churches like Concord!
The broader point I want to make is this: Throughout history, the women involved in something like UMW have truly lived out what it means to be a member of God’s family.
People like Isabella Thoburn and Dr. Clara Swain had their own “earthly” families. They were obviously someone’s daughter, sister, aunt, or mother. Yet at the same time, however, they responded to God’s call to be a sister to absolutely everyone in need. Many times, this involved raising money to fund schools, programs, and food banks. Other times, it meant even traveling halfway across the world to be a missionary!
At the heart of being a Christian is a simple truth concerning family relationships. Our place in God’s family matters most, and our actions ought to reflect that. We are called to be a brother and sister to our neighbors, treating them with the all-inclusive love of Christ.