Ordinary People Living Ordinary Lives
Beloved in Christ,
One of the most powerful, Spirit-led experiences of my life and ministry was being part of a group of people who formed a residential program for survivors of sex trafficking, abuse, and addiction. It started with the dream and passion of a woman discerning a call to the diaconate, and our first concrete steps were made possible by a $35,000 UTO grant.
The United Thank Offering was founded by Julia Chester Emery, whom the church commemorates on January 9. Emery, a laywoman, was the secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary (later ECW) for forty years. As part of this work, she visited every diocese in the Episcopal Church, helped gain canonical status for what were then known as deaconesses, and give the Women’s Auxiliary an important role in the General Convention. She also travelled widely to Episcopal Church missions around the world. The United Thank Offering was a simple idea to give women small boxes in which to place a few coins whenever they were thankful. Today, UTO gives away more than a million dollars of grants annually that provide critical support for ministries all over the world.
Emery, who is hardly a household name, is exactly the kind of saint our church and our world so desperately need. Ordinary people who live ordinary lives that are fueled by the deep well of God’s love, and who are rooted in Jesus. The simplest possible idea has had an immeasurable impact on our capacity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with world that is starving for it.
Today, Emery's profound love lives on in ECMN's own incredible ECW chapter and in our continued contributions to UTO. LaDonna Boyd is ECW's longtime president, Kay Stickney coordinates ECMN's local UTO offerings, and Elizabeth Campbell diligently and faithfully serves both in her role as ECW's secretary. These three laywomen are just a few who carry on Emery's legacy of deep faith, grounded in love for God's children and devotion to the church, in our diocese today. I am sure you each know of laywomen in your faith community who embody that same spirit.
The hurting world and our embattled church don’t need big people with brilliant ideas. We needs saints with the humble and tenacious faith of Julia Chester Emery. Pray that God might grant us such a faith in our moment.
Grace and Peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya