2019, The Creating Spirit

Empowered to Go!

By Rosanna C. Panizo, Wesleyan Theological Seminary

One hundred Peruvian Methodist Women gathered in a campsite ten miles south of downtown Lima, October 25–27, 2018, to be Empowered to Go!  These women came from big cities on the coast as well as from small towns in the Andean mountains, using all means of transportation.  The majority were lay leaders from local churches as well as some local pastors and two of the three ordained elder women in the Methodist Church of Peru.  Among the participants were professionals and women who hardly finished their elementary education.  Speaking Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara ones, we were all together, bounded by the same Spirit!

In violence against women, Peru is the fourth highest country in the world.  This painful reality was addressed during the pre-conference regional events that took place in the second part of 2018. With a participatory methodology, all women had the opportunity to express their feelings and share their experiences from their local realities.  We prayed and sang, explored the reality of violence against women in some of the Scripture stories, and searched for the good news for us in the biblical source.

Empowered to Go! participants were able to explore their call to the different ministries of the church.  We searched within the biblical traditions for creation narratives that are foundational in our identity of women and men as equals. We looked for inspiration in the lives of biblical women and their roles in the divine-human history: Eve, Deborah, Rahab, Miriam, Mary, Martha, Dorcas, Lydia, and several unnamed women.  We identified with many of them in quite different and creative ways.  The facilitators of the different themes included young Peruvian women leaders who had graduated from Wesleyan Theological Seminary of The United Methodist Church, laywomen, and clergywomen leaders from around the country.

We learned about the presence and ministry of women in the early Methodist movement in England, the United States, and Latin America, as presented by Dr. Margarida Riveiro from the Methodist University in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  A lot of group work and discussions were animated by powerful singing and prayer. We even had a little time to play some volleyball; the first time in many years several of us had done so.

During the “cultural” evening, in which we shared the diversity of cultural expressions of Peru and Brazil, we had the opportunity to sing regional songs, to dress up according to regional customs, and to dance and celebrate.  We were joined by a couple of children, Rafaela Soto and Jesús Bustíos, the national champions of marinera—the Peruvian national dance—who are students at Colegio América, one of the Methodist schools in our country.  A couple of leaders from the jungle area even shared a little taste of a meal prepared onsite!

We were graced by the presence of other international visitors: Ivana Garcia, president of the Federation of Methodist Women, from the Methodist Church of Brazil;  the Rev. Gabriela García from the New England Conference, and a member of ACLAMEN (Association of Latina Clergywomen of The United Methodist Church); and Mónica Rey and Susana Franco, students of the School of Theology at Boston University.  We also had the honor to have in our midst Dr. HiRho Park from the GBHEM, which co-sponsored the gathering.  All of them had the opportunity to share their experiences in the working groups and also had time to visit an archeological site, Pachacamac (soul of the earth), which is in the area of the camp.  Pachacamac is the largest and most important archeological site in Lima, the capital city of Peru.  It was the main worship center of the coastal area of Peru for more than one thousand years, beginning in the year 200 BCE.

I found out that the Holy Spirit keeps moving beyond our imagination and perspectives.  We learned again that we, as part of the people of God, can have different and even opposite experiences of life. If we are willing to listen with the purpose of understanding each other, and not first reacting to what we are listening to, then the Holy Spirit will work in us and through us.

During our closing worship, the message was brought by Chaski Q’enti (messenger hummingbird) a theater group lead by Methodist actresses Débora and Ana Correa.  They performed a piece inspired by the book from Dr. Elsa Tamez, Women of Courage: Seven Women in the Life of Jesus the Christ. Dr. Tamez is a well-known biblical scholar from Latin America.

Finally, we all were sent, Empowered to Go! Praise be to God!

THEMES

2019 – Unity in the Church

2018 – Claim Who We Are in Christ

2017 – Bodies, Oppression, and Gospel

2016 – Birthing a Worldwide Church

2015 – Clergywomen Lead Vital Congregations

2014 – Empowerment for All

2013 – What Next?

2012 – What Does the Lord Require of Us?

2011 – See, I am Doing a New Thing

2010 – Voicing Truth With Grace

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WellSprings, A Journal of United Methodist Clergywomen, is published by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Editor: HiRho Y. Park

Managing Editor: Barbara A. Dick

Editorial Circle: Patricia Bonilla, Neelley Hicks, Anita Phillips, Jacqui Rose-Tucker, Trudy Hawkins Stringer