By DENISE HERSCHEL
Marilyn Shotwell, who has lived in Ocean Grove for 65 years, vividly recalled her time spent as a young girl in Sunday school. One of the morning’s speakers was a missionary who had traveled the world aiding others in need. And from that moment, Shotwell was hooked. Intrigued by the mission stories, she knew as a 10-year-old girl that one day she too hoped to spread the word of the missionaries or perhaps became one herself.
And although Shotwell did not become a missionary she did study nursing eventually becoming a registered nurse helping others in need of healthcare. Today she is a member of one of the world’s biggest women’s missionary societies, the United Methodist Women (UMW).
At St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Ocean Grove, Shotwell has been a member of the organization for 50 years. She is now completing her second year as vice president and plans to ontinue for another two years with the four-year term limit.
The UMW at St. Paul’s Methodist Church is a large organization of women with approximately 150 current members. Most of the members live locally in Asbury Park, Neptune, Ocean Grove, Ocean Township and Bradley Beach. A good number of them are long-term members having been in the group for at least 15 years or more.
“As a kid I was intrigued by the missionaries and their work. As I got older I looked for mission stories. It just seemed like a great adventure to me. I thought I would be a missionary. My husband’s sister was a missionary and I loved listening to her stories. But I became a nurse and found I could be a part of the mission work by joining the UMW,” she said.
The history of the UMW is lengthy going back to 1869. It’s 140-year legacy started when the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society first organized in Boston in response to a lack of women’s healthcare in India. At the time women and children were legally classified as “chattel, legally dead, non-persons.” There was little service to women because of prejudice and limitations of cultural attitudes in the church and in society.
In 1869, two wives of missionaries of India were home on furlough. They spoke to a group of women in Boston about the desperate spiritual and physical needs of women in India. Eventually the Methodist Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) was formed in 1869; in 1879 the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Protestant Church was founded. These groups and others became powerful organizations sending hundreds of missionaries all over the world.
In 1973, United Methodist Women became the women’s mission organization of The United Methodist Church. Today, UMW is the largest denominational faith organization for women with approximately 800,000 members whose mission is fostering spiritual growth, developing leaders, and advocating justice. Members raise up to $20 million a year for projects and programs related to women and children in the United States and in more than 100 countries worldwide.
“Last year the UMW at St Paul’s raised over $14,000 for our mission budget. We pledge to help missions abroad and in the United States. We have given money to local organizations such as the Allen Project in Asbury Park, Interfaith Neighbors in Asbury Park, Habitat for Humanity in Neptune and Asbury Park and to other groups such as the Neighborhood Center in Camden and Red Bird Mission in Kentucky,” she said.
One of the group’s biggest fund-raisers is the annual spring and fall rummage sales featuring household goods, clothes, shoes, books and toys. The last Saturday in November there is a Christmas Craft Fair at Fellowship Hall at the church. Most recently there was a Choir Festival Dinner on July 14 and on Aug. 23 and 24 there will be a Women’s Bazaar with lunch at Fellowship Hall.
Shotwell said the purpose of UMW is threefold: to know God, to develop a creative supportive fellowship and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church.
Shotwell added that St. Paul’s UMW has six circles – one of the circles is for women who are 50 or younger; the rest of the circles are for those over the age of 50.
“We always encourage new members to join. I find it is harder to get people to become members because women work. Their time is not as available to us. Women’s clubs are going by the wayside a bit. I think it’s a wonderful group to join because we serve women and children,” she said.
The next meeting for UMW is Sept. 14 at 2pm at Days Restaurant in Ocean Grove. It is the first meeting of the fall season. Ice tea and dessert will be served.
UMW meets on the second Tuesday of each month except during the summer months. Meeting times vary but ususally take place at Fellowship Hall. There is no membership fee but a free will offering is accepted. For those interested in joining contact Marilyn Shotwell at 732-776-6487.