UMW to examine music in missions


Songs have played an important role in missions for centuries.

Lyrics to Battle Hymn of the Republic were written by Julia Ward Howe to resist slavery. Fanny Crosby wrote Rescue the Perishing as she worked with the poor of New York City in the late 1800s and shaped the church’s understanding of mission. Martin Luther King led the people in singing We Shall Overcome!, and now freedom movements throughout the world lean on that song for hope.

United Methodist Women of the Mississippi Conference will draw on that background as they gather July 18-20 at Rust College in Holly Springs for the annual School of Christian Mission. This year’s team is “Sing Across The Walls!”

This year’s studies on Mission and Music, Israel/Palestine and Globalization present opportunities to continue the legacy of justice and freedom associated in songs. How does one sing across the walls? Walls isolate and separate for economic, social, political and/or religious purposes. What can a song do? Bring hope and give courage. The African American spiritual I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me repeats after every verse, “Anywhere Lord, Anytime.”

Christian women are called to sing a song of hope and freedom across walls. They sing for the freedom of all people, not just themselves. They sing the songs of hope that have the power to bring down walls of hatred and injustice.

School Dean Patricia Battle said some changes have been made in the 2007 schedule.

“The school has been shortened to three days, and will end with dinner on Friday. However resident students can leave on Saturday morning,” she said.

“The plenary sessions, which give an overview of each study and provide a worship opportunity, have been condensed too. The evening activities will be motivational and educational as well as a time for fellowship and fun. Students that commute are encouraged to join our special evening activities.”

Leading the music for the school will be song leader Bernice Sykes, Senatobia District president, and pianist Patricia Campbell of St. Mark UMC in Daleville.

Mission and Music
The purpose of this study is to provide an opportunity to explore the songs of mission that women have been singing for more than a century. Joyce Shol’s book Music and Mission, reminds readers of the passion brought to mission work by our forebearers and expressed in hymns of then and now. Christian foremothers realized mission was not just overseas. Human need for hope, love and healing was everywhere. Today, the sounds of mission hymns take on the rhythms and languages of peoples around the world.

Leading the study are the Rev. Kelly Pope of Brandon, Frances Gail Jones of Meridian and Babs Stauss of Jackson.

Pope is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Brandon. He was minister of music at Court Street United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg and Columbia Drive UMC in Decatur, Ga. He appeared regularly on The United Methodist Hour as a member of The Hour Quartet. He has made two records and produced two tapes of music.

Jones has served two years as a musician for the Mississippi Conference School of Christian Mission. She has led choir workshops and attended music training and workshops throughout the United States. She is a member of Wesley Chapel UMC, where she has served as the director of music for more than 20 years.

Stauss is the widow of Dr. Hans-Karl Stauss, the mother of five and grandmother of five. She is a member of St. Luke UMC in Jackson. She has served more than 40 years as church musician (pianist and organist), and is a member of the choir.

She is active with mission work in her church and United Methodist Women.

Israel and Palestine
This study will help participants learn about the history and complexities of relationships between Israel and Palestine. Participants will explore and understand the concepts of security and freedom that dominate the lives of these peoples. This study will challenge participants to move through tolerance and respect to achieve a just peace.

The leaders are Myrtle Brown of Memphis, Dr. Shan Yohan of Decatur, Ga., and the Rev. Bert Gary of Prentiss.

Brown is a retired teacher. At St. Matthew’s UMC in Memphis, she serves as the chair of Mission Outreach and is the Memphis United Methodist Area coordinator of disaster response. She has trained study leaders in the Memphis, Tennessee and Arkansas conferences. She has traveled the seven continents – five of the continents with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission as a member or team leader. She led a mission team to Bethlehem/Beit Sahour (Shepherd’s Field) and served as a member of the World Methodist Council fact-finding/planning team in Israel and Palestine.

Yohan was educated in India and the United States, receiving degrees in English, philosophy, political science, education and religious education and a doctorate in counseling and psychological services. She has been an educational, motivational, inspirational speaker and mission study leader since 1972. She is a retired college professor and full-time volunteer.

At present, she is involved with interfaith women, children, youth and family, and serves refugees and immigrants as well as international students.

“These are turbulent times globally. We, as members of local congregations, are God’s instruments of hope for love, justice and peace,” Yohan (right) said.

Originally from Georgia, Gary has degrees in music, psychology and theology, all from Emory University in Atlanta. He is in his 21st year of ordained ministry in the Mississippi Conference. For 11 years he directed and taught in two United Methodist graduate programs for local pastors for the Jerusalem Institute for Biblical Exploration in Jerusalem (JIBE), for Candler School of Theology at Emory University and for Millsaps College in Jackson.

He taught in Israel and Palestine off and on for more than a decade. Through JIBE, he taught in Turkey, Greece and Jordan. He is the author of Jesus Unplugged, published in 2005. He is currently on sabbatical to complete another book.

Globalization: Its impact on our lives
This study will explore how the economic policies of globalization touch the lives of ordinary people. This study will assist participants in seeking means to think about refashioning their lives and the nation’s economic policies at home and abroad.

Leading the study is Bonnie Dillon of Columbia. She is a member of Columbia Valley UMC where she serves in many capacities, including president of her UMW unit. She has led studies in the Mississippi Conference and in mission education events in many of the districts. 

Dillon is a retired school teacher.