It’s more than just a name change, say leaders of United Women in Faith.
The former United Methodist Women, whose change in name and adjustment in focus were announced last month, are set to cast a broader net and especially try to reach new generations, according to Lisa Maupin of Lincoln, chair of the organization’s nominations committee for the South Central Jurisdiction.
“It’s a response to the change and the growing needs of women, not just in our congregations but in our communities,” said Maupin, who is also lay leader for the Great Plains Conference. “This truly is an opportunity to spread our nets wider, to challenge ourselves to think about not only who is present in our organization but who is missing, and how we can reach out and be a part of that.”
Name changes are nothing new for the 153-year-old organization, Maupin said. United Methodist Women, established 50 years ago, has had the longest staying power of any of them.
“What’s exciting is that it’s not just a name change,” Maupin said. “We’re asking ourselves to have a change in our education, spiritual growth and opportunities to reach into our communities. It sets the same foundation, but it moves forward into that whole new realm.”
And, she said, the new name welcomes not only those in the United Methodist Church and proposed Global Methodist Church.
“As our denomination is undergoing such stress and strain, this allows for people who, regardless of where you land, you’ll have a home with this women’s organization,” she said. “We are still going to be women in action, we are still going to be spiritually based and grounded and challenged. We’re still going to be women who lift up new leaders, not just for our organization but for our churches and our communities.”
Louise Niemann is one of the 25 directors of the denomination-wide United Women in Faith, and said the change came at the conclusion of a five-year plan by the organization.
“Ever since I was elected a director (in 2020), we’d been talking about it,” said Niemann, who lives in David City, Nebraska. “It’s exciting to come up with a new plan and a new name and kind of reenergize.”
Even a month after the change, Niemann said, she still finds herself referring to the organization as UMW.
“We’re so familiar and comfortable with that name and we know who we are,” she said. “I kind of have to stretch now and live into the new idea and live into the future.”
United Women in Faith, Niemann said, is “inclusive and it reaches out to all women.
“We’ve included women of other faiths and denominations before, but now our name says it,” she added.
The name change, Niemann said, was a closely guarded secret until its formal unveiling.
“A lot of people didn’t know this change was coming and it’s hitting them for the first time,” she said.
The changes, she said, will be further explained and celebrated at the UWIF’s quadrennial assembly in May in Orlando, Florida.
“History is made when you have a big change like this,” she said.
Janice Elmore, president of the Great Plains United Women in Faith, said she welcomes the change, especially in its effort to draw younger members.
“We’re aging out, so we need to reach out to younger women and get them involved so we can keep going another 150 years,” she said. “United Methodist Women always led the church with their ideals through changes in faith. We need to look forward to the future and our young women.”
Elmore said she was uncertain how the changes on the denominational level would affect how UWIF operates at the conference or local church.
“We’re going to have a new way of reaching out to the younger women and getting them involved,” she said. “Our programs will be the same, education and spiritual growth, but where we will add on is with more technology, getting together online and having a new community there. I think that’s what will attract the younger women.”
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