Celebrate the Gifts of Women
Sunday, March 9, 2002
action of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly (Orlando,
1993), Celebrate the Gifts of Women appears in the Presbyterian
Planning Calendar each year. Originally placed on the Sunday
closest to March 8, International Women's Day, (currently placed
later in the year) congregations and individuals are encouraged
to celebrate this day at some time each year, recognizing the
gifts women bring to God, the church and the community.
This day is set aside for two reasons: to celebrate and honor
individual women who contribute their gifts to church and community,
and to lift up issues of women's rights. The occasion provides
an opportunity for congregations to recognize particular women
whose faithful service makes a difference in the church's life.
It also gives congregations a chance to lift up specific issues
of concern to women locally, nationally and internationally.
"Phenomenal Women" was last year's theme, inspired
by the poem of the same title by Maya Angelou, with biblical
women lifted up for our celebration. The theme continues this
year as we look at women in the United States who have provided
leadership. It is hoped you will add to this list as you celebrate
the contributions and faithful service of the women you know
Call to Worship
(based on 1 Cor. 12:4--11 from The Message, by
Eugene Peterson, Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1993.)
We gather to celebrate God's call---God's call to phenomenal
women whose stories are told in the scriptures and God's call
to women throughout time.
All: God's gifts are handed out everywhere but they all
originate in God's Spirit.
Leader: We celebrate Nelle Morton, Mary Barret Dyer and
other religious women, clergy and lay, who have stood firm in
their calling, despite opposition based on their gender.
All: God's various ministries are carried out everywhere
but they all originate in God's Spirit.
Leader: We celebrate Bella Abzug, Antonia Novello and
other women involved in politics, as politicians and as public
citizens, who have labored for justice and the public well-being.
All: God's various expressions of power are in action
everywhere but God is behind it all.
Leader: We celebrate Mary McCleod Bethune, Katherine Siva
Saubel and other women educators, in the classroom and in the
school of life, who have inspired generations and brought out
the best in all of us.
All: Each person is given something to do that shows who
God is: everyone gets in on it; everyone benefits.
Leader: We celebrate Marian Wright Edelman, Delores Huerta
and other women involved in advocacy and social reform, as organizers
and as persistent challengers, with the courage to name injustice
and work for its elimination.
All: All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit,
and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful.
Leader: We celebrate Mary A. Hallaren, Grace Murray Hopper
and other women in the military, who serve faithfully and honorably.
All: God gives gifts of wise counsel, clear understanding,
simple trust . . .
Leader: We celebrate Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony
and other women involved in women's rights, in national leadership
and in changing individual relationships one-by-one, who have
paved the way for women today and tomorrow.
All: God gives gifts of healing the sick, miraculous acts,
proclamation . . .
Leader: We celebrate Fannie Lou Hamer, Susette La Lesche
and other women involved in civil rights, as powerful leaders
and in daily resistance, who have demanded an end to racial hierarchy
and white privilege.
All: God gives gifts of distinguishing between spirits,
tongues and interpretation of tongues.
Leader: We celebrate Gertrude Belle Elion, Chien-Shiung
Wu and other women scientists who have expanded our knowledge
of the world and used their wisdom to better human life.
All: All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed
out one by one by the one Spirit of God.
Leader: We celebrate Pearl S. Buck, Zora Neale Hurston
and other women writers, whose names we know and whose names
we will never know, who have written the truth as they experience
it and have challenged the world to hear the voices of women.
All: God decides who gets what and when it will be given.
Thanks be to God!
PH #405, What Does the Lord Require
PH #348, Christian Women, Christian Men
PH #436, We Are Your People
Prayer of Confession
Creator God, your spirit has gifted us in many ways. Yet we fail
to use the gifts you so graciously bestow. Forgive us our fear,
our apathy, whatever it is within us that holds your image captive
in us. Make us bold in your name that we may embody your grace
and your strength in this world.
In Christ's name we pray. Amen.
[In silence, lift up your failure and your fear for God's transforming
Assurance of Pardon
In the transforming moment of resurrection, we find ourselves
forgiven. Let your hearts be lifted up, your fear and weariness
put aside. For God has declared God's love for us. We are forgiven.
1 Corinthians 12:4--11 (Translation: The Message by Eugene
God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate
in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere;
but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions
of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind
it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God
is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things
are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The
variety is wonderful: wise counsel, clear understanding, simple
trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing
between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one
by one by the one Spirit of God.
He decides who gets what, and when.
Prayers of the People
Generous God, who creates us in wisdom, who redeems us in wisdom,
who sustains us with wisdom, we come to you with hearts of gratitude
in celebration of your call to phenomenal women. Through Christ
you have borne witness to how we, your human creatures, manifest
your gifts in our lives. Through the Spirit we are empowered
to seek and embody the gifts you provide.
When wisdom calls, may we listen. When wisdom speaks, may we
respond. When wisdom reaches out to us, may we return the embrace.
Your gifts are many and the needs of the world are great. Together
may we become phenomenal in our faith and witness, seeking your
wisdom as we celebrate your gifts.
[Here you may add concerns specific to your congregation.] Amen.
PH #386, O for a World
PH #316, Breathe on Me, Breath of God
PH #432, Song of Hope
PH #377, Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore
Blessing and Benediction
Go into the world in peace.
Go engaged in discernment of your God given gifts.
Go and use your gifts in service to a broken world.
Go and develop new gifts that you might serve with gladness not
only the length of your days but the breadth of them also.
May you be warmed in your journey and guided by the God of your
May you be strengthened by the God of the women who walked with
And may you always be inspired by God in the Holy Spirit. Amen.
is a modern translation by Eugene H. Peterson, pastor, scholar,
writer and poet. Author of several books, he is professor emeritus
of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
Eugene founded Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air
Maryland, where he served as pastor for 29 years.
Phenomenal Women Biographies
Nelle Morton (1905--1987) Theologian, professor, author, ecumenist
who has had far-reaching influence on churches and international
Mary Barret Dyer (unknown--1660) Died a martyr's death by hanging
when she defied the Puritan church authorities in Boston. Following
her death, anti-Quaker statutes were eased and the process that
led to religious freedom and the separation of church and state
the clergywomen in your area with a luncheon or reception.
· Use the video and study guide "200 Years
of Presbyterian Women" as part of a new members class. Order
from Presbyterian Distribution Services (PDS), 800/524-2612,
Bella Abzug (1920--1998) Civil rights and labor attorney elected
to Congress from New York City in 1970
Antonia Novello (1944--present) First woman and first Hispanic
to be named Surgeon General of the United States, she raised
awareness of public health issues affecting women and children,
such as domestic violence, underage drinking and the neonatal
transmission of AIDS
about international peace networks such as Women in Black, MADRE,
Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan.
· Invite a local woman active in politics to share
how her faith guides and impacts her political involvement.
Mary McCleod Bethune (1875--1955) Teacher who began a school
in Florida to help educate young black women with only $1.50
and developed it into Bethune-Cookman College
Katherine Siva Saubel (1920--present) Cahuilla Indian scholar,
educator, museum founder, author and social activist who works
to preserve her tribe's culture and language
Contact National Network of Presbyterian College Women at 888/728-7228,
ext. 8042 to learn about the program and its resources for college
women. If there is a college campus in your area, become involved
in its campus ministry.
· Start a mentoring program for teen and college
women in your congregation.
Marian Wright Edelman (1939--present) Attorney, civil rights
advocate and author who founded the Children's Defense Fund,
the nation's strongest advocacy group for children
Delores Huerta (1930--present) Labor and political activist and
cofounder of the United Farm Workers union
the PC(USA) Women's Advocacy Network. Contact the Office for
Women's Advocacy at 888/728-7228, ext. 5403.
· Study "Living Faithfully in the Public Square."
To order call PDS, 800/524-2612, and request item # 045099.
· Use "Making A Difference in the Public Arena"
to conduct a training session on public policy advocacy. To order
call PDS, 800/524-2612, and request item # 259-94-958.
· Explore issues of hunger, homelessness or domestic
violence in your community and become involved in advocating
Mary A. Hallaren (1907--present) Director of the Women's Army
Corps after World War II and proponent for permanent status for
women in the military
Grace Murray Hopper (1906--1992) Mathematician, computer pioneer,
inventor and teacher who developed the COBOL computer language
and the first woman to attain the rank of Rear Admiral in the
United States Navy
Pray for women who serve in the military.· If you
have a military installation nearby, invite an enlisted woman
or woman officer to come to your meeting to share how her faith
impacts her military service.
· Find out if there are any women veterans in your
congregation and recognize them with a luncheon.
Sojourner Truth (c. 1797--1913) Abolitionist born a slave who
became an advocate for women's rights, a Quaker missionary and
Susan B. Anthony (1820--1906) The women's movement's most powerful
organizer whose lifetime of dedication paved the way for women's
right to vote
a women's history display. Contact the your local or state Women's
Hall of Fame or the National Women's Hall of Fame, 315/568-8060
· Ask women of different generations to tell about
the changes they have experienced in women's roles.
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917--1977) Mississippi sharecropper and organizer
of the Mississippi Freedom Party, which challenged the white
domination of the Democratic Party
Susette La Lesche (1854--1903) Member of the Omaha Tribe and
campaigner for Native American rights
an antiracism training event for your congregation or women's
group. Contact the Racial Justice Office of the PC(USA) 888/728-7228,
ext 5698 for assistance.
· Study "Breaking Down the Walls: Responding
to the Racism That Divides Us." To order call PDS, 800/524-2612,
and request item # 225-92-271.
· Read about racial ethnic Presbyterian women who
have made important contributions to the church in Etchings in
Diversity. To order call PDS, 800/524-2612, and request item
Science and Medicine
Gertrude Belle Elion (1918--1999) 1988 Nobel Prize winner and
distinguished research scientist who spent a lifetime creating
drugs to combat leukemia, gout malaria, herpes and other auto-immune
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912--1997) Nuclear scientist whose pioneering
work altered modern physical theory and changed the accepted
view of the structure of the universe
Invite a woman physician or scientist in your area to tell how
her vocation and her faith inform each other.
· Prepare a program or display about women's accomplishments
in science and medicine.
Pearl S. Buck (1892--1973) Novelist daughter of Presbyterian
missionaries to China whose writing evoked two different cultures,
American and Asian
Zora Neale Hurston (1891--1960) Novelist, anthropologist and
folklorist who contributed to the preservation of African-American
folk traditions and to American literature
Read one of Pearl Buck's novels as a group and learn more about
her in the March/April 2001 issue of Horizons. To order call
PDS, 800/524-2612, and request item # HZN-01- 210.
· Start a reading list of "new women authors"
and include in your congregation's or Presbyterian Women's newsletter.
Learn more about the women named above
and other women who have made important contributions to history
from the National Women's Hall of Fame. Visit their Web site,
www.greatwomen.org. The Presbyterian Historical Association also
has useful information; contact them at 215/627-1852.
To learn about Presbyterian women who changed the role of women
in the church, check with your presbytery resource center for
In But Still Out: Women in the Church by Elizabeth Howell Verdesi, 1973
Our Rightful Place: The Story of Presbyterian Women 1970--1983
by Elizabeth Howell Verdesi and Lillian McCoulloch Taylor, 1985
A Sampler of Saints by Elizabeth Howell Verdesi and Sylvia
Rooted in Faith: Women Who Touched the Lives of Others
by Evalena Berry, 1991
Presbyterian Women in America: Two Centuries of a Quest for
Status, second edition, by Lois A. Boyd and R. Douglas Brackenridge,
Additional free copies of this resource
may be obtained from
Presbyterian Distribution Service
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202-1396
Ask for PDS # 72-700-03-001
Call 800/ 524-2612 to subscribe to Horizons.
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