By Etta Graham-Mitchell
I experienced a “God moment” when, on November 3, 2015, I saw an e-mail inviting me to apply to attend the 60th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60) in New York. I label this a God moment because this application was due on the same day that I saw the email about it. I said to myself, “I can’t do this. I am way too busy to even stop and complete this application.” But I filled out the application because I would have regretted it if I had seen the e-mail the next day and realized that I missed my chance. So I said to myself, “Just do it.”
I was pleased to be accepted and to be granted a grounds pass to attend Commission events at the UN. I was exhilarated and, at the same time anxious about this wonderful event since I did not know what to expect. As a Presbyterian candidate journeying toward ordination, I should have known that information would be forthcoming, and it was. I was impressed with e-mail notices and the phone conference, which kept me updated on everything that I would need to do to attend the event.
CSW60 began officially on the 14th of March and continues through the 24th. There are 40 of us here this week as part of the Presbyterian delegation. All members within the Presbyterian delegation were invited to meet at the Church of the Covenant on March 11, 2016, just around the corner from the UN, for Presbyterian orientation. (Church of the Covenant, a PC(USA) congregation, is celebrating 150 years of ministry this year!)
Rev. Mark Koenig, director of Presbyterian Ministry at the UN, spoke on advocacy. He told us, “There are no voiceless people; everyone has a voice.” (They aren't always heard, but everyone has a voice.) This was an eye opening moment for me because it made me realize that, if we are in the business of helping others, we must be aware that those whom we are called to help must be allowed to speak, even if they use no words. We must learn to listen to what is not being said, because sometimes that’s louder than the actual words. As advocates, we must work hard to create spaces where those with hidden voices can be heard.
And during early morning worship the next day, the dynamic Rev. Dionne Boissiere (chaplain at the Church Center at the UN), told us “Prayer is advocacy.” This worship was part of Ecumenical Women's orientation at the Salvation Army on 52nd Street. It was invigorating to stop in all our busyness and, as Rev. Dionne said, “Be in this moment.” We prayed, sang, and read scriptures. As a woman of God, this is the way I am able to quiet my spirit and become fully prepared to do the work that God has called me to do. “Prayer is advocacy.” That meant to me that, in this very moment, the Holy Spirit will be leading us as we work for peace and justice in the next two weeks at the UN.
Editor’s Note: See today’s post from Rev. Mark Koenig for the text of “All People Have Voices.”