Women's Ministry Department Evolves, Adapts During COVID-19 Pandemic
As the country celebrates Women’s History Month, The Salvation Army Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Division wanted to highlight the important work of the Women’s Ministry Department.
The department is led by Major Christine Merritt with support from Major Jennifer Woodard, and Captain Telinda Wilson. These three women run 10 programs and provide support to 26 worship and community centers across the division.
“Women’s Ministries is so important because women are different, we need relationships. If a woman can find a community, or if someone speaks out and shares their experience as a woman it shows that they are not alone,” Major Woodard said. “It’s important to hear other women’s stories.”
When they provide support to the Corps Community Centers, they assist with the worship services, women’s bible studies, and women’s retreats. In the past, they have been hosts to events at Army Lake Camp and gatherings with female officers.
“The old perception of Women’s Ministries Department, formerly known as Home League, has been changed. It’s important that people understand that we want to make sure to meet the needs of adults wherever they are in their stage of life,” Merritt said.
The Women’s Ministry Department support men and women alike. They provide support to veterans, older adults and even those in other countries.
To support veterans, they visit the Milwaukee Veterans Affairs Hospital twice a year and provide an emotional and spiritual presence for the veterans who are admitted to the hospital, hospice, or the assisted living facility. They bring gifts as a thank you for their service, and each December they visit different floors with an officer-led brass quartet to play Christmas carols for the veterans.
“The VA Christmas visitation is special. Many veterans struggle with trauma and shame from the things they have had to do in combat. These are people who may have suffered the loss of their families, their physical health, mental health and even their spiritual health,” Woodard shared. “Our group of 20 or so musicians bring a timely reminder that Veterans are respected, they are valued, they are loved by God, and there is eternal hope to be had. Our Salvation Army employees are thrilled to get out of their offices to minister this joy to veterans.”
Another program is Older Adult Ministries. They host a Spring Fling at Army Lake Camp, which is a weekend for older adults to relive their camp days or even experience camp for the first time in their lives. In pre-pandemic times, they also host an Older Adult Christmas Luncheon in Milwaukee with hundreds of guests where they celebrate the birth of Jesus.
“Every year hundreds of older adults look forward to coming together to enjoy a meal at Christmas, this is a special time to celebrate the birth of the Savior with good food and good friends,” Wilson said.
Major Jennifer Woodard also provides Community Cares Ministry, which includes visits to Nursing Homes throughout Milwaukee County and provides fellowship with the elderly community.
Lastly, the Women’s Ministries Department supports World Missions. The Central Territory of The Salvation Army, where the division is located, provides support to the India Southeast Territory. They help raise funds for this part of the world so they can provide essential services to their communities. They do so through various fundraisers like a Fish Fry hosted at The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County’s Oak Creek Corps. There are also two summer missions’ teams that go to India to assist with various needs.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the department had to adapt in the way they help women build relationships and share their stories.
For instance, the Women’s Ministry Department sat down and in one meeting planned an entire virtual camp. They knew just how important continuing the tradition would be, especially during the pandemic. They provided a safe, virtual space where women could worship, fellowship, and just take a moment out of their day to decompress from the world.
“When they come to camp, they receive a hospitality bag. This year we wanted to make sure the female officers, and the women that typically come, have some tradition in this strange year. So, we packed up hospitality bags and craft supplies delivered them to the women,” Major Merritt said. “Some of the women did gather to do the craft or do Bible study within their little pods if they felt safe.”
The Women’s Ministry Department credits their Administrative Assistant, Emily, for the creative way to bring camp to the women. They not only worshiped, but there were exercise activities and crafts to help keep the women engaged and provide a fun experience from home.
Another new venture during the pandemic was when Captain Wilson began a newsletter for older adults.
“I know a lot of them don’t have access to technology, and even if they do, they may not be able to use it well. It’s just a way to stay connected and something to look forward to,” Wilson said.
The department is ever changing and catering to the needs of women as they change over time and through this pandemic.
The WUM Women’s Ministry Department are trailblazers on their own, and The Salvation Army is so grateful for their support, innovation, and for making the Division feel appreciated and loved. If you would like to get involved with Women’s Ministries, please reach out to your local Salvation Army.