Wings of Hope Widowed Ministry (WOH) received a $3,500 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, a non-profit corporation and extension ministry of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church. Money from the grant is being used start new chapters and explore ways to encourage, educate, and equip churches to develop a ministry for the widowed.
Incorporated in Tennessee in 1996, WOH had its first chapter meeting in Cheatham County. Led by co-founder Pat Brandenstein, widows from several denominations came to her house for a meal and activities that included a devotion and prayer.
Today, there are three chapters in Middle Tennessee—one each in Cheatham, Franklin, and Rutherford counties. An additional four to six chapters are in the planning stages. WOH is open to all women who are widows by death, divorce, desertion, or imprisonment; and to any woman who senses a call to the ministry. Chapter meetings, usually held once a month and led by widows, offer mentoring programs, support groups, and information of value to new widows such as Under the Hood that talks about car maintenance.
Chapters usually provide nutritious snacks or meals during group meetings. “Many widows do not prepare or enjoy fixing a balanced meal,” said Brandenstein. “Most will exist on sandwiches, cereal, or snacks. Also, eating alone is not the most desirable situation. How many times do we hear in scripture of Jesus eating with a group of people, especially his disciples? Eating with other believers can be an important part of our spirituality and could even be considered an act of worship.”
Money from the grant also funded a seminar—Developing a Widowed Persons Ministry within the Church—held at Lambuth Memorial United Methodist Church in Gallatin, Tennessee, and First United Methodist in Cookeville, Tennessee. As a result, Lambuth Memorial is establishing a widowed persons ministry and Cookeville is discerning how to implement the ministry.
In the future, Brandenstein would like to bring key individuals together from various locations and equip them to return to their communities and develop chapters. “God has provided people in key leadership roles to develop this ministry,” Brandenstein said. “Widows have changed from hopeless and helpless women to confident God-directed individuals. In addition, churches have been empowered to develop a widow’s ministry within their congregations. With God’s help, the ministry model for chapters and churches will continue for years to come and expand across the United States—bringing hope to those who feel hopeless due to the loss of a spouse.”
Wings of Hope member Sylvia McGhee sums up her experience “Wings of Hope is proving to be awesome! It creates a positive environment which encourages healing, growth, stability, and empowerment and reconnects women with a community after the separation of a spouse. The sharing of meals, fellowship meetings, and small learning groups creates a safe forum where you can push through devastating and chaotic times to moments of peace, strength, and comfort among other women who share similar experiences. Wings is a needed and vital outreach to many.”
Another member, Angela Hensley, said, “Wings of Hope has been a life-save for me. I lost my husband suddenly. I thought I was going crazy. After joining this amazing group, I found that all my thoughts and feelings were normal stages of grief. They gave me hope when I didn’t think there was any.”
Entirely volunteer-driven, Wings of Hope relies on grants and donations as well as meeting space provided by area churches and community centers. “I am thankful for the Golden Cross Foundation’s financial support,” said Brandenstein. “They are part of the reason why we are able to expand our ministry to the widowed.” For more information about Wings of Hope visit http://www.wingsofhopewidowsministry.com/