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MDUMC Sewing Circle Sends Comfort Around the World for 25 Years
A newborn baby in Maua, Kenya. A woman undergoing breast cancer treatment in Houston. A schoolboy in Belize.
Worlds apart, yet, connected by a common thread – all recipients of handcrafted gifts sewn, crocheted and knitted by members of Memorial Drive UMC’s Common Thread Circle.
One of the oldest and most active circles within MDUMC’s United Women of Faith organization, Common Thread has been meeting since 1997. Their hats, scarves, blankets, “critters” and heart-shaped pillows have found their way around the world, bringing a bit of comfort to more than 125,000 people, large and small.
In 2022 alone, the ladies made 5,216 donations to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, mission trips to foreign countries, charitable organizations providing aid to hurricane victims, and others.
Common Thread founding members first gathered at the church 25 years ago. Because of limited space, they moved to a nearby Starbucks where regular customers got to know the ladies and started donating fabric and spreading the word about the ladies’ mission.
And even though they loved meeting at the coffee shop (they even purchased a vacuum cleaner so they could tidy up the rugs before leaving), the Circle soon outgrew its space and went back to meeting at the church.
For two hours each Monday afternoon, 25 to 30 Circle members meet to stuff and sew closed heart-shaped pillows and animals that have been cut out, washed and ironed, and sewn by other volunteers working from home. Others crochet and knit lap blankets, hats and scarves. The ladies turn out approximately 75 pieces a week.
“One of the things I love about the Circle is that it includes ladies from so many denominations and that we assist other churches like Spring Branch Presbyterian and St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in their mission efforts,” says Circle Co-chair Mary Brannies.
No project is ever too daunting for Common Thread to tackle. Last year, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the group answered the call to make 125 pink scarves and hats and was honored for its work at Methodist Medical Center’s “Blessing of the Gifts” event.
“One of the most moving things to me is seeing a breast cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy treatment with her arms wrapped around one of our pink heart-shaped pillows,” says Rima Blanc.
More often than not, Common Thread members don’t see the true outcome of their work as it goes in so many directions.
They missed seeing the smiles on the faces of children who received Child Care Bags that included one of their stuffed animals after the Texas Annual Conference Mission Center helped families affected by a hurricane in Louisiana.
They never watched pediatric surgeons make simple drawings on the white “therapy dolls” showing their smallest patients where they were going to give a shot or put a bandage.
Leslie Antley, who singlehandedly knitted and crocheted more than 500 hats for Houston’s Interfaith Ministries Refugee Services and a 2022 mission trip to Kenya, didn’t see the outcome of her work.
Yet, Common Thread members keep on sewing, knowing that their handiwork makes a difference to someone, somewhere.
A note from HCA West Houston Medical Center recently shared these sentiments: “Today was a good day to pass out pillows: A crying mother of an infant in the ICU, the daughter of a patient who just lost her 12-year-old son, and to a lady who had a stroke and was delighted to have the heart pillow. I left a pillow for the unit secretary in the ER. Her back pain was flaring up and the pillow provided comfort while she finished her long work day. Everyone wants me to convey how much they love and find comfort with the heart pillows.”
Common Thread welcomes all women of all denominations. It meets from 2 to 4 p.m. on Mondays in Memorial Drive United Methodist Church’s Wesley Hall.
Strawbridge UMC adds new UWF Unit
When the church split occurred last year, it left a lot of people searching for a new church home, and many of them landed at Strawbridge UMC in Kingwood. Strawbridge did not hold a vote on disaffiliation, instead their vote was all about what the church’s positioning statement would be regarding the LGTBQ+ community. When the vote came back, defining Strawbridge as a reconciling church, the floodgates opened. The church doubled in size. The biggest issue right now is enough parking on Sundays! What a lovely problem to have.
Although it could have felt overwhelming for the Strawbridge members, long-time members threw the doors open and welcomed new members with open arms and helped them on a healing path.
One new member, Carol Boldin, was most interested in the Women’s Ministry. She had always enjoyed that in the past and wanted to contribute at her new church. The existing Women’s Ministry group at Strawbridge functioned but needed some organization. That’s when Boldin met Kathy Kraiza in her new Sunday School class. Kraiza, Texas Conference Education and Interpretation Officer, told Boldin all about United Women in Faith. This seemed like the ideal time to begin a new unit.
Boldin poured out the Strawbridge story to Katie Pryor and Khia Shaw at UWF in New York, who were encouraging and helpful. They emailed Strawbridge a membership kit.
On January 10, 2023, Strawbridge UWF had their first meeting to see if there was enough interest to proceed. They had a salad bar because it’s always time for a pot luck! Kraiza gave an excellent overview of UWF, and the women voted to move forward. Officers were nominated and voted in for 2023. There were many circle suggestions that night, as well as people stepping forward to volunteer their talents. They held their official New United Women in Faith Celebration on Sunday, April 17, 2023, and signed up a number of ladies that day.
In early May Strawbridge hosted their first event, a tea party. They had 77 in attendance. They opened with a performance by Sola Gratia, a women’s ecumenical choir, enjoyed their tea fare, and closed with women from a local charity, Oaks of Righteousness, sharing their testimonies. The event was free, but they asked everyone to bring household items for the Oaks of Righteousness. It was an amazing spirit-filled afternoon.
“That’s us,” Boldin says. “Moving forward. Figuring things out. Seeing God in everything as we build relationships with our new church family.”
Let’s Keep in Touch
United Methodist Women is now United Women in Faith, and that means we’ve updated our name on the web.
Be sure to bookmark our new website address: http://uwfaithtx.com.
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And speaking of news, be sure to sign up for our newsletter where you’ll learn all about what happening for United Women in Faith around the Texas Conference.
Spring Spiritual Retreat 2023
Make plans to join us at our upcoming Spring Spiritual Growth Retreat, Saturday, March 25, 2023, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. We have an amazing line-up of workshop facilitators, and our keynote speaker will be Dr. Yvette Richards, Past National President of United Women in Faith.
As we prepare for our time together in a virtual format, we want to invite you to join us from 7:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. for Morning Glory. Many of us recall the great time we had at Lakeview for Morning Glory at the Tabernacle. Well, we expect this time of Morning Glory to offer nothing less. This will be a time of Praise and Worship, and you definitely don’t want to miss what the Lord has in store for you! This time together will set the tone for the day, and you will want to set your alarm a little earlier to make sure you are in the number.
We will Gather to Sing at 8:45 a.m., followed by our Opening Plenary at 9:00 a.m. After the keynote address, you can choose from two (2) workshop opportunities, which will be followed by our Closing Plenary. Our workshop facilitators include
Draw the Circle: 40 Day Prayer Challenge
Dr. Sylvia Molo Jones, Trinity United Methodist Church
Emotional Wellness for You
Natasha Young, M.Ed.,
How to Navigate Zoom
Valerie Adame, Texas Conference Communication Co-coordinator
Texas Impact 2023 Priorities and workgroups you can join
Scott Atnip and Katie Wang.
Navigating Mighty Networks: How to Connect with Other United Women in Faith
Praveena Balasundaram and Jim Keat
Leadership Development Days 2023
Newly-elected President, Theresa Graham, opened the new year in the Texas Conference on Jan 7, 2023, by welcoming district officers from across the conference to Leadership Development Days via Zoom. After a quick program meeting that featured a devotional by Spiritual Growth officer, Lue Wenzel, and a message from Graham, attendees went into breakout rooms to learn more about their new offices.
Conference officers led the breakout room sessions, training their district counterparts and giving everyone a chance to ask questions and network. District officers left the meeting armed with new ideas for training their unit counterparts.
Are you a district officer who was unable to attend Leadership Development Days? Contact your conference officer to receive the materials for your office.
New Officers Installed During 2022 Fall Meeting
Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”Ezekiel 47:12
Healing and Joy in our Journey to God was the theme of the 2022 Fall Annual Meeting of the Texas Conference of United Women in Faith. Led by President Carolyn Milby, women from across the conference joined together on Sept 10, 2022, via Zoom to conduct business, be inspired, and install new officers.
Milby welcomed the group with the hymn, My Jesus, I Love Thee, which was followed by an 9/11 remembrance led by Spiritual Growth officer, Lue Wenzel.
Treasurer Kathy Aubin led the Candle Burning special recognition ceremony. As part of their mission giving, units from across the district donated money in honor and in memory of special individuals in their unit to recognize their service to the organization. Aubin announced that the Conference had received over $3,000 this year as part of the Candle Burning donations.
Two women were recognized for their special service to the Conference. Vice-President Krystal West presented outgoing President Carolyn Milby with a Special Mission Recognition. Rev. Cheryl Smith received the Hazel Decker Award, which recognizes an outstanding woman in the Conference, for her work in Africa.
Kathy Kraiza, Education and Interpretation officer, presented a report on the 2022 Hands on Project. Districts from across the conference assembled kits of toiletries and supplies, which were combined to create care bags for disaster survivors. Over 200 adult care bags and 200 child care bags were assembled representing over $28,000 in donations from Texas Conference districts.
Paulette Moore-Hall updated the group on the new UWF brand standards and encouraged everyone to incorporate them in their communications and presentations.
Stacie Hawkins urged members to donate to the Legacy Endowment Fund by becoming a Legacy Builder, a Friend of Legacy, or by being a part of the 1869 Society. Created in 2014 with a goal of raising $60 million as a source of ongoing income, Hawkins reported that as of May 31, 2022, the Fund total stood at $35,920, 237.
The keynote speaker for the event was Dr Marilyn Stinson. Speaking on the meeting’s theme and scripture, Stinson invited members to follow Ezekiel’s example and:
- Focus on God
- Trust in the Lord and do good
- Be aware of God’s care each and every day
After a break, the business portion of the meeting was called to order during which new officers were elected for 2023 and the 2023 budget was adopted.
Milby led the group in the closing hymn, God Be With You Till We Meet Again, and then adjourned the meeting.
New Name, New Look
UNITED WOMEN IN FAITH