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'Circles of Names' celebrates Northeastern Ohio women of faith

By Gregg Brekke


Cleveland, June 15, 2011 --Six women of faith were honored at the National Council of Churches’ “Circle of Names” recognition reception held June 9 at Cleveland’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.


Attended by more than 100 guests, the reception also served as a fundraiser for women’s ministry and gender justice programs at the NCC.


Honored by the area planning team were the Hon. Jane Campbell, former Cleveland mayor and current chief of staff for U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.); Bishop Judith Craig, the second female bishop in the United Methodist Church who served as bishop of the Ohio East Conference beginning in 1984; Bishop Elizabeth Amy Eaton, bishop of the Northeast Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 2007; Edith A. Guffey, associate general minister and former national secretary of the United Church of Christ since 1993; the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland; and the Rev. Georgina Thornton, civil-rights leader and pastor of Grace AME church in Warren, Ohio, since October 2009.  


Hosting the event in Cleveland was the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, former NCC general secretary. Campbell was honorary chair of the reception.


Trinity Cathedral donated the space for the gathering.


The Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, NCC program director for Women’s Ministries, introduced the Circle of Names program, which raises money to support the NCC’s gender justice programs, saying, “We must celebrate the accomplishments and stories of these women, and ensure they are captured as part of ‘her-story.’ ”


Tiemeyer reported that prior to the Cleveland awards, the Circle of Names campaign had raised $75,000 of its $100,000 goal. “If 1,000 women can be remembered with a $100 gift each, we will meet the needs of supporting and sustaining gender justice programs at the National Council of Churches,” she said.


Remarks by award recipients were punctuated with thanks for the many women who had formed the awardees’ for lives of service and ministry.


Bishop Craig thanked mentors at the NCC who guided her through an internship following seminary. Introduced to ecumenism, Craig said she realized, “the church is so much bigger than I know.”


Craig commended the audience to “remember the women who have been formative in your life, and tell them while they are still alive” and to “claim how influential you have been in other women’s lives.”


Longtime friend of Bishop Eaton, Rev. Lind, made remarks in Eaton’s absence calling her “one of the most courageous bishops in the Lutheran church … One of the most courageous women I’ve ever met … One the most faithful disciples of Jesus.”


Acknowledging the long history of gender justice activities in the United Church of Christ, Edith Guffey was especially inspired by a sermon preached by the Rev. Yvonne Delk several decades ago. “I knew this church, they type of church that gave voice to Reverend Delk, was one in which I would find a home,” she said.


The Rev. Tracy Lind recalled the many “mothers” and role models she had collected along her journey, quipping that she now was “old enough to collect daughters.” “We stand on lots of shoulders,” Lind said, “I don’t know where I would be without those women. But I know I need to tell the stories … of these extraordinary people.”


Told by a high school guidance councilor she had three things standing in the way of her goal of becoming a doctor – “you’re colored, you’re a girl, and you’re just not smart enough” – the Rev. Georgina Thornton found other avenues for service throughout her life.


Involved in civil rights, Thornton found a call to ministry that ultimately led to ordination in the African Methodist Episcopal church. Undeterred by the counselor’s assessment, Thornton – who didn’t miss a Sunday service in over 21 years of ministry – said, “God has always been with me. He has always been with me.”


Concluding with a litany of celebration written by Dr. Marguerite Doctor, participants recited, “We, the circle of believers, stand in remembrance of those of the past. We stand in celebration of those in the present. And, we stand in expectation of the great work to be done in the future to sustain, coordinate and extend the work of women’s ministries and gender justice.”


The Circles of Names Campaign aims to create support for women's ministries by asking 1,000 people to give $100 in the name of a woman who helped shape their faith. In so doing, the campaign will lift up the stories of 1,000 women as sources of inspiration and empowerment of the churches' witness for gender justice. The campaign seeks to build a foundation toward long-term sustainability of women's ministries and gender justice in the NCC, its 37 member communions and its ecumenical partners.


In addition to Joan Brown Campbell Campbell, the members of the Cleveland Circles of Names steering committee are: the Rev. Rebecca J. Tollefson, the Rev. Loey Powell, the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, Elaine Hopkins, Mary Ann Fischer, Dr. Marguerite Doctor, and the Rev. Laura Strietelmeier.


The members of the leadership circle are the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, the Rev. Dr. Cheryl Dudley, the Rev. Dr. Kathryn Jans, Alison Killeen, Jean Martensen, Lillian Oats, Jacqueline Ogega, the Rev. Loey Powell, Deaconess Joanne Reich, Kim Robey, Djamillah Samad, and Inez Torres Davis.


Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.


Photos by Gregg Brekke
NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell),


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