ECW Episcopal Church Women

Report from President Deborah Caby

on the April  2019 ECW Province V Conference

Members of the Missouri Delegation at the Conference
L-R Carolyn Daniels, Mary Anselmo, Jeanne King, Rev. Susie Skinner, Deborah Caby, Ginger Simmons, Peg Cooper and, seated, Karen Birr.

"Grace Is Like Grits"
by Deborah Caby

In The Rev. Susie Skinner's homily, she summed up perfectly the work of the ECW (Episcopal Church Women) Province V Annual Conference in Springfield, IL on April 26-28, 2019. Not only was this a reflection on how the theme of Grace & Gratitude planned for this event was carried out, but this has been a reflection of the work of Karen Birr over the last thirteen years of her service to the Episcopal Church Women as a Diocesan President and the Province V President.

Why is Grace like grits? Rev. Skinner told of her husband's travels through the southern states. One morning, he asked the waitress to hold the grits on his breakfast order. The woman told him, "This is the South, you get grits whether you wants them or not!" God's Grace is like this, it is bestowed on you. You do not have to ask for it. You do not get to refuse it. You have no choice. It is yours.

The only response is Gratitude. We can't purchase grace, but we certainly can have gratitude for all God has given us. Grace is not like a pie that is cut into sections, each person getting a smaller piece as our table grows, but is like the loaves of bread and fishes that multiply in response to our gratitude.

Each year, the Province V ECW Board plans a conference and annual meeting to carry out the work of God where we gather together to enjoy the gift of friendship, learning and service. This becomes a dance with the Holy Spirit leading us into joy, sharing and learning of the various service projects throughout Province V that our women work and sponsor.

As Karen Birr planned the Conference, she found the Diocese of Springfield did not have the people or resources to sponsor this event. She kindly asked the Diocese of Chicago, Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Ohio to help the Diocese of Springfield plan and staff the event. God graciously has given all those dioceses the necessary gifts in which we could respond with gratitude. What we received in the end was so much more than any of us could have given on our own. Again, grace and gratitude and abundance in the blessing of this work.

The weekend was a balance of work, friendship, celebration and gratitude expressed in the form of gifts and laughter. Then work included the Presidents, United Thank Offering, Church Periodical Club, and Daughters' of the King meetings and workshops. Friendship and laughter was shared over meals, entertainment by presentations by Barbara L. Kay on Mary Todd Lincoln's life not as history, but as a woman with struggles of life as a mother and wife; a talk from Dr. James Cornelius on Abraham Lincoln, his family and the Episcopal Church. We were also entertained on Saturday afternoon and evening by a planned tour of The Dana Thomas House, a Frank Lloyd Wright creation and the newly refurbished Governor's Mansion and music before dinner by the Lincoln Land String Quartet.

We were also blessed by the presence of our National ECW President, Karen Patterson who not only talked about her time as an appointed delegate by The Most Rev. Bishop Michael Curry to be present at the United States United Nations Conference on the Status of Women. Karen Patterson's willingness to work hard for the well-being of all women of the Episcopal Church and to be of service to all women in the world is an example of how we should be living out our faith.

Our gratitude was expressed in prayer and worship both evenings and the celebration of Eucharist on Sunday morning led by the Rev. Susie Skinner. As we heard and learned about an organization, Feed My Starving Children, our gratitude spilled over into a generous offering of three times the expected donations to this organization with many interested in helping them in food packing events across the Province. You can learn more by visiting Beth Petti of the Diocese of Chicago hand-painted bowls as the tangible gift for those donations.

This was a fitting celebration of the work and effort Karen Birr has extended by her service as President of the Diocese of Missouri Episcopal Church Women (ECW) Board for seven years beginning in 2000. She was then elected as President of the Province V ECW Board and served for six years. During this time, she accomplished much within these two Boards. She revised and cleaned up the by-laws on each Board and established financial provisions in the creation of endowment funds. Karen also made sure to reach as many women within the Diocese of Missouri by personally contacting each parish in her effort to be of service. She also attended all Diocesan meetings in Missouri, all the President's meetings for Province V (held twice a year), attended and represented two Triennial Meetings (she was unable to attend the 2018 Triennial Meeting in Austin due to the sudden death of her father-in-law, but had planned the Province V ECW portion of the Triennial). Karen attended Diocesan retreats as she was invited during her time as Province V ECW President.

Karen Birr is a member of St. Barnabas for 36 ½ years and has been married to James (Jim) Birr for 29 years. They have two daughters and two grandchildren. Asked what she will do in her "retirement", she replied her first order of business will be to spend more time with her aging parents, enjoy her husband and family, plus continue her participation in church events, Eastern Star, the Red Hat Society and visiting tea houses. She will continue her monthly class dinners and shopping. Spending time with her grandchildren is at the top along with spending time with her parents (her father passed away as this was being written) are her top priorities. We thank God for Karen's gift of service.

The women attending from the Diocese of Missouri were Karen Birr, Rev. Susie Skinner, Carolyn Daniels, Peg Cooper, Jeanne King, Ginger Simmons and myself, Deborah Caby. All are welcome to these annual Province V Conferences. Please plan to join us next year.

God's Grace by sending us as sisters to each other that we may serve all God's children through service. Grace is like grits, we get it whether we want it or not and our only response is gratitude.


 About Episcopal Church Women

The Episcopal Church Women is one of our oldest church organizations and is open to all women; all women of the Episcopal Church throughout the United States are considered members of ECW.

ECW's vision statement is "To offer every woman in the Diocese of Missouri an environment of support and encouragement, education and opportunity for ministry by providing: Fellowship; Communication; Resource Materials; and Outreach to the Diocese, Nation, and World."

Diocese of Missouri ECW Board’s role is to represent all the women in our diocese; share in communication and leadership, and build support for ECW within our diocese and in the wider church.

Our mission is to offer every woman in the Diocese of Missouri an environment of support and encouragement, education and opportunity for ministry by providing: fellowship, communication, resource materials, and outreach to the diocese, nation and world.

In addtion to work we do in our parishes, we work together on common projects throughout the year and gather annually for a diocese-wide meeting. Every three years we meet as national organization, concurrently with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

The ECW in the Diocese of Missouri offers a scholarship for women in financial need who are members of an Episcopal congregation in the Diocese and who will be in their second year of post-high school education studying toward a degree or certificate in a field of service to others. The deadline is June 1 prior to the next academic year.

History. Episcopal Church Women were first established in 1872, then called “The Woman’s Auxiliary”. Mary Emery was hired by the Board of Missions to be in contact with all parishes and encourage women to create their own Auxiliary Missionary Society “to aid with sympathy and prayers, time labor and money to the extent of her power.” An appeal was made for a $40-a-year pledge from individual parishes. In 1958, at the 29th Triennial Meeting in Miami Beach, the name changed to the Episcopal Church Women (ECW). Today we are Episcopal church women of all ages, ethnic origins and socioeconomic backgrounds, who hold a variety of views. However, the most common view of our members is the love of God and the wish and desire to do His work.

More Info

Contact: Deborah Caby, diocesan ECW board chair
(636) 422 1210 (home), (314) 606 7577 (cell & text),