In July of 1978, Church of the Brethren women gathered at Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, to share our stories and our concerns as women to live and serve responsibly in the church and in the world. I was there. It was a time when as a nation we had just lived through the the Vietnam War and the tensions of the civil rights movement and now it seemed we were moving precariously closer to a nuclear holocaust. Clouds of change were everywhere.
At such gatherings I always expect to be nourished, reassured, inspired and sent home with a seed of an idea or challenge. Rarely, however, does that seed take root as firmly as it did then. In the culminating worship service, Ruthann Knechel Johansen, in Giving Birth to a New World, reminded us that “neither a great social program nor a sophisticated theology are prerequisites to live in harmony with life. We need only the simple stuff of life – a commitment to the essential goodness by transcending the old order and creating new relationships and structures that nurture justice.” She challenged the gathered women “to refuse to purchase luxury (non-essential) items, or to tax our luxuries and redirect the “luxury” monies toward meeting the needs of people who are victims of our consumption.” I felt the current of excitement that pulsed around Cordier Auditorium as women nodded and clapped and cried “Yes, here is something we can do.” The suggestion was not made to exonerate us, but to help create a greater awareness in each of us the consequences of and the extent of our privilege. From that inspiring speech, Global Women’s Project was born.
That is what we attempt to do in Global Women’s Project: 1) Encourage honest reflection on how we use our resources, 2) contribute our “tax collections” or other donations to GWP Fund, and at the same time, 3) establish relationships that nurture justice for women around the globe. Presently GWP funds women’s projects in Nepal, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and the US.
Today we still need this reminder, considering the recent tragedies in Bangladesh, the continuing pleas for education for girls in Pakistan and on much of the African continent, the proliferation of gender-based crimes, the reality of economic disparity for women in the U.S. At a time in our national life when “tax” is an uncomfortable word, consider how your “tax” and the self-awareness it brings, might give birth to an opportunity for another woman somewhere in the world.
—Pearl Miller, GWP Steering Committee
(If you have memories to share from that 1978 North Manchester Women’s Gathering, please share them on our Facebook page. )