by Mennonite Women USA
Manhattan, New York—“We’re standing on the shoulders of women who gave their lives for their faith. Radical Anabaptist Women (RAW) believe, ‘We’re not finished yet, we’re just getting started,’ coordinator Sandra Perez said. Forty-five women, men and children gathered at Colors Restaurant in southern Manhattan on March 10, 2012 to honor six young women. Attendees represented ten of the sixteen New York City (NYC) churches.
Recently ordained pastor Addie Banks wore the “ordination skirt” symbolizing the connectedness of all women to her ordination to ministry in summer 2011, which was a catalyst for RAW. Banks reflected, “It took twenty years for me to be ordained. We [RAW] want to mentor young women so they won’t have to wait so long to be licensed and ordained.”
Following the ordination, Banks, Sandra Perez, Ruth Yoder Wenger and Sylvia Shirk – all leaders in NYC churches – met for a retreat and talked about the need to mentor young women. Sylvia Shirk describes the vision to mentor young women as informal and organic. They simply approached women they knew well who were already active in ministry and asked if they would like a mentor.
Melody Pannell of Infinity Mennonite Church said, “When Sandra asked if I wanted a mentor, it was an answer to prayer. I was called to ministry at the age of 20. In every new season I’m trying to see where God is leading me. Now I am called to mentor and empower other women. Growing up in Harlem, my heart went out to young women. I began a non-profit, Destiny’s Daughters, where we meet regularly with girls to share our hearts with one another.”
Hyacinth Stevens of King of Glory Tabernacle Mennonite Church said, “Mentoring for women and girls is needed at multiple levels. How many young men have someone tap them to be pastors? RAW is doing that for women. RAW will help to eliminate the detours to ministry for women.”
Nancy Maldonado, also of King of Glory Tabernacle Mennonite Church, shared her call to pastoral ministry saying that she is studying the life of Moses, comparing that to her own journey.
Attending from Mennonite Women USA, co-director Rhoda Keener praised the courage and boldness of the four women who offered themselves as mentors, and the inspiration each of the honorees is for the church.
Ruth Yoder Wenger, pastor of North Bronx Mennonite Church, gave each honoree prayer beads to connect her with other radical Anabaptist women. She then presented a certificate stating “for exemplary work in ministry.” She blessed each woman saying, “You are God’s beloved daughter. In you God is well pleased.”