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Presbyterian orientation provides advice and encouragement for participants preparing for UN gathering

#CSW67 delegates to use their gifts to make a difference on gender equality

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Delegates to the 67th Commission on the Status of Women participated in an exercise talking about the most interesting place their shoes had been. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

LOUISVILLE — The 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women kicked off Friday for delegates from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Presbyterian Women with an orientation session from the Church of the Covenant in New York City that set the stage for a nearly two-week gathering to empower women and girls.

#CSW67 is an annual gathering that serves as a way for Presbyterian delegates — and people from all over the world — to advocate for the empowerment of women and girls, become more knowledgeable about issues affecting them, and take what they’ve learned back to their home churches and communities to do further advocacy work. It takes place at the United Nations headquarters.

“We are very privileged in that we are here, and to really use the gifts that we have to make a real difference and be the church that God intended us to be,” Sue Rheem, who coordinates the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN, told the delegates.

Sue Rheem, coordinator of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, leads a segment of Presbyterian orientation for #CSW67. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

This year’s CSW, which takes place March 6-17, will revolve around “innovation and technological change” as well as “education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”

“This will be a beginning of trying to come up with what can be a good framework for governments to follow, in terms of technology and innovation and security and safety in the digital sphere, so that’s why it’s going to be really, really important,” Rheem said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that gender equality is achieved and that there is empowerment for women and girls.”

The Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, Co-Moderator of the 225th General Assembly (2022) of the PC(USA), the Rev. Mary Newbern-Williams, gap executive presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City, and the Rev. Dr. Cornell Edmonds, interim pastor at Covenant, were among those who greeted the delegates during orientation.

The Rev. Mary Newbern-Williams, Gap presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City, greets delegates during a Presbyterian orientation session at the Church of the Covenant in New York City, less than a block from the United Nations. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

“We pray that this event is one that will just energize you for everything you’re called to do, and when you return to your respective homes, you will do so with great excitement, looking forward to the very next time that we come together,” Newbern-Williams said during orientation. “It is a joy. It’s an honor. We want everyone to feel at home, to feel comfortable and enjoy New York City because it is an exciting place to be.”

In brief remarks, Starling-Louis discussed impactful moments from her recent trip to South Sudan, where she was part of an ecumenical delegation that went to encourage reconciliation in the war-torn area. She recalled meeting a female leader who said that until there is the political will to do right by the women and the children, there would always be problems. That leader also was upfront about pointing out that, as a woman, she looked different from many others in the room. That statement resonated with Starling-Louis, who replied, “Amen!”

The Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, Co-Moderator of the 225th General Assembly (2022) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), greets delegates during Presbyterian orientation at #CSW67. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

Starling-Louis also was struck by the people of South Sudan’s devotion to God. “I’ve never seen more beautiful worship and faithfulness and joy,” she said. “They made their selves, their spirits, their hope known through the ways in which they were tethered to God.”

During the orientation, delegates also heard from Anna Hand, an engineer who was inspired by her grandmother to become a woman in technology. Faith has been instrumental in helping Hand to withstand the challenges of being in a male-dominated field, where women aren’t always valued.

“God gives us adversity in our lives, and while we may feel frustrated and challenged, we can use this adversity to not only help ourselves but to learn from it and help others,” she said. “The testing of your faith produces perseverance. That’s James 1:3. That is exactly what we are here to do. We are here in New York not only to speak to our own experiences but to learn from others as well. This gathering allows us, as women and allies, to show how we have overcome our own personal stories of adversity in the hope that each of us walks away inspired and empowered to create momentum towards meaningful change.”

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations if one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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