Gifts to #Give 8/28 can make a difference in lives often overlooked by churches

Grant helps a Cleveland-area group pay attention to women’s mental health

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Beachwood, Ohio, was recently awarded a woman’s leadership development grant from the Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries, part of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, because of funds raised through #Give8/28 during the 2020 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Week of Action.

St. Mark’s, where the Rev. Carmen Harwell is pastor, used its grant funds to assist in its outreach to churched and non-churched women and girls who have been victimized or hurt by the church.

The Rev. Carmen Harwell

Because of the many stories of women who have been sexually assaulted by leaders and or members of the church, young girls who have been ostracized by the church due to gender identity issues and those who have been denied leadership roles in the church based solely on their gender, the congregation’s goal is to engage, educate, embrace, and celebrate with the women. The idea is to help them have a healthier view of the Christian church, understand and not take personally its imperfections, and seek to serve and educate the church and other women and girls for the church’s overall health and survival.

Additionally, the grant was used to engage women virtually to listen to and advocate for their spiritual needs and assist them with qualified help for psychological and physical needs as well.

 “We have made progress toward gender equity, but church programs and projects need to reflect and support this progress,” said Jewel McRae, coordinator for  Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries. “Another important aspect of St. Mark’s program is the assistance they will offer for psychological well-being. We know that mental health and well-being is crucial, and I am so glad that this grant will help the church pay attention and offer help in this area.”

“The African American Women’s Ministries Leadership Grant provides leadership formation opportunities for women and girls. The grant will celebrate and value the gifts of African American women as we become a gender-just church,” said McRae. “I am truly grateful for the support the church has shown for #Give 8/28 and I want to encourage everyone to make a gift this year so that we can continue these efforts in the PC(USA).”

“It has been such a blessing to all of the women involved, and we continue to pray hard that the Lord will hasten the day when we can physically be together,” said Harwell. “Seeing each other every week and hearing each other’s voices is wonderful, but we all need hugs.”

“During the time of COVID-19, we continued to meet virtually and minimized our planned outreach until God leads us into a post-COVID-19 world,” Harwell said. “Our goal is to reach out to women to engage, educate, embrace, and celebrate them through outreach and the study of God’s Word.”

Members of Bishara, a South African word meaning “with God,” come together to advocate for spiritual, psychological and physical needs. (Screenshot)

The group providing the assistance is Bishara, a South African word meaning “with God.” Harwell says since August 2020 a group of approximately 15 women meet virtually every Wednesday for fellowship and Bible study, to pray for one another, share a meal and exchanged resources.

She says the women have joined in a book study with Church of the Covenant in Cleveland of Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste: The Origin of our Discontents.” They also joined with Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights to study Austin Channing Brown’s book, “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness.”

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