Building a unified sisterhood and strengthening families that is the focus behind the new guidelines for home, family and personal enrichment activities that were implemented last January, according to the Relief Society general presidency, Bonnie D. Parkin, Kathleen H. Hughes and Anne C. Pingree.
"There's enthusiasm on the part of leaders as well as those sisters participating when they understand that this is an informal way that women can gather and build friendships as well as find ways to strengthen families," said Sister Pingree, who oversees home, family and personal enrichment. "When this happens, all lives are blessed the individual, the family and the ward."
Referring to the August 2005 First Presidency letter announcing the new guidelines for home, family and personal enrichment meetings and activities, Sister Pingree said the general presidency is seeing through reports received from throughout the Church that sisters are catching "a real vision of how you can strengthen the family through home, family and personal enrichment activities. The (new guidelines) were also to provide increased flexibility at the local level."
In meeting with the Church News, along with general board members Connie Cannon and Helen Thiriot, Sister Pingree said that local Relief Society leaders are to do the following, concerning enrichment activities:
- Assess and determine the needs of the sisters in a given ward or branch.
- Welcome input from the sisters.
- Involve local priesthood leadership; bishops and branch presidents have a great vision of the needs of individuals and families.
- Plan with purpose and prayer.
Many examples coming into the Relief Society general offices are showing that this is, indeed, happening. Gail McHardy, Relief Society president in the Houston Branch, St. Robert Missouri Stake, made coming up with ideas a matter of prayer with her counselors. "The Spirit was certainly there to help us," she said during a telephone conversation.
Then, with support of the branch president, she presented the ideas to the sisters in the ward. She was surprised when the activity most popular was a class in American Sign Language. Another sister in the branch had taken sign language courses and agreed to teach the classes.
"The branch president has agreed to let them sign with the choir soon," Sister McHardy said. She added that one sister had recently returned to Church activity and by participating in the class "she felt much more a part of Relief Society."
Sue Gaskill, the enrichment leader in the Holladay 4th Ward, Holladay Utah South Stake, looked for help from "specialists" in her ward. Utilizing the computer skills of Sue Gygi and Julie Rawlings, the ward has started a family history project. Sisters Gygi and Rawlings go into the homes of other sisters and help them set up family history software and show them how to get started. On Sept. 12, the ward Relief Society sisters will attend the temple and do work for at least one ancestor each.
Sister Gaskill said they have also had lunches with women who are homebound. She added that having fun, yet meaningful activities, as guided by the Spirit have helped the younger sisters "realize how much fun Relief Society is."
Other activities occurring throughout the Church have included:
- A branch in Mexico teaching women how to cut children's hair, cook and do basic sewing, thus helping with the family budget.
- A ward in Blackfoot, Idaho, offering a class in sewing modest prom dresses.
- A ward in Salt Lake City with many newly married couples offering classes on strengthening marriage and living on a budget.
- A stake in Arizona in which women are helping teach English to children and mothers who speak Spanish.
- A single adult ward in Salt Lake City offering employment classes.
"I think through friendships and goals that strengthen and build sisters and also fortify families," Sister Pingree said, "we can feel the love of the Lord in greater measure in our individual lives and in our families."
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