Florida's UMW presses on in faith and connection

The great thing about a connectional church is that someone is always there in times of adversity to bring God’s presence to mind and cushion the blow.

For United Methodist Women, a group that banded together almost 150 years ago to serve God with contributions ranging from meal preparation and sewing projects to staging protests in the name of social justice, that connection may be among the strongest forged in the denomination.

And that connection has helped leaders of the Florida Conference United Methodist Women stay strong as they cope with the loss of their president, Aggie Reed. She died Feb. 27, and though she had been ill, her death came as a surprise.

“It took us for a loop,” said Paulette Monroe, a former Florida UMW president and longtime friend of Reed’s. She also is assistant dean of the organization’s Mission u, a four-day educational experience open to all, and a member of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Leadership Team’s Committee on Nominations.
Aggie Reed headshot
Aggie Reed

A decision already has been made to carry on under the leadership of Kay Roach, Florida UMW’s vice president, until a new president can be elected in November and take office in January 2016.

Support from UMW members across the nation has been strong, and donations to the organization’s Legacy Fund have been made in Reed’s name, Monroe said.

The Florida UMW’s annual Mission u will go on as planned July 9-12 at Bethune-Cookman University, as will the group’s fall spiritual retreat Sept. 11-13 at the Life Enrichment Center near Leesburg and the annual meeting Nov. 7 at First UMC, Clermont. 

“It won’t look like we’re affected at all, although in our hearts we are,” Monroe said. “We’re a global organization … 800,000 members and growing. We’re fine.”

A memorial service for Reed is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 28, at Ebenezer UMC, Miami, where she had been a member for 30 years. Reed was a past president of the Miami UMW and was treasurer of the conference's UMW for several years before stepping up to the presidency in January 2014.

A retired U.S. District Court financial officer, she stressed the importance of stewardship during her UMW leadership tenure, Monroe recalled.

For the first time in years, the Florida organization not only met its fundraising goal of $500,000 for missions and ministries but exceeded it during Reed’s leadership, and her friend took comfort in that, Monroe said.

“Aggie was adamant about that,” she said. “That was a good thing. She could smile about that.”

Monroe said she met Reed in the late 1980s through church activities, but it wasn’t until the two worked together in UMW that they became close.
“That’s when we became like sisters,” Monroe said.

She described Reed as having a quiet, soft-spoken nature, “but what she said, she meant.”

Stepping in as interim president is Roach, an active member of Centenary UMC, Quincy, for more than 30 years. She was North West District UMW president for four years before being elected vice president of the conference organization in November 2013. She said she has been presiding at Florida UMW meetings and representing the group at conference gatherings since late last year, when Reed became too ill to do so, and she will continue to fill that role.

In memory of Aggie Reed

Memorial service 11 a.m. Saturday, Ebenezer UMC, Miami

Opportunities to give:
  • Legacy Fund, United Methodist Women Day of Giving
  • Aggie Reed Endowed Scholarship Fund at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. Checks can be made out to Ebenezer UMC, with "Aggie Reed Fund" in the memo line. Send to the church at 2001 NW 35th St., Miami, FL 33142
“The (leadership) team’s really coming together” to plan events and fulfill UMW’s obligations, she said.

She noted that Reed’s funeral in Daytona Beach earlier this month was well-attended, including two busloads of people from South Florida.

One bus came from Ebenezer UMC, where Reed had been a member for 30 years. Rev. Dr. Joreatha McCall Capers said Reed was a welcoming presence when she took over as pastor there in 2005.

“She was just a very, very special lady and a tremendous asset to the church and to me, coming in to lead the congregation,” Capers said. “She had the gift of administration. She was very well organized.”

The congregation’s UMW organized the Maundy Thursday service each year, and one year, Reed got the idea to include the United Methodist Men, Capers recalled. Reed was in charge, and she insisted that everything be done well.

“The men were all very aware that if they did not attend the rehearsals, they would not participate,” Capers said. “Her expectation level was high.”

Reed also trained volunteers and shared her accounting experience with the church finance committee. She was also known for her “extravagant generosity,” including once writing a check to pay for a new computer needed by the church, Capers said.

She also was known for coaching the next generation, the pastor said.

“Her passion was reaching out to young women and making sure they were trained for leadership.”

Because of that, the Ebenezer congregation is collecting funds to start an endowed scholarship that will help students at Bethune-Cookman University pursue leadership goals. Checks can be made out to Ebenezer UMC with a notation of “Aggie Reed Fund” in the memo line.

-- Susan Green is the Florida Conference managing editor.

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