By RON FANFAIR
Baltimore Deputy Mayor Salima Marriott and Vashti McKenzie, who nine years ago was elected the first female Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, were among nearly 1,500 women from Canada and the rest of the world gathered for four days in Toronto last week to fellowship in prayer.
The AME Church Women’s Fourth District sponsored the first ever International Women’s Prayer Convocation at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.
The global initiative’s theme was “From Many Nations, One Sisterhood.”
Rev. Cecilia Williams Bryant, whose husband, Bishop John Bryant, is considered the father of neo-Pentecostalism, conceived the idea for the unique global prayer meeting.
“This is a new vision,” said McKenzie who is also the first woman to become the titular head of the denomination as the president of the Council of Bishops. “This is different from a conference where there are workshops, speakers on the floors and vendors peddling products. Prayer is a dynamic spiritual weapon that assaults the kingdom of darkness on behalf of the Kingdom of God.
“Countries and leaders can do so much, but prayer can do everything. We beseech through prayer to break the cycle of poverty everywhere and address things like the ecology and abused children.”
On her first visit to Canada, McKenzie expressed delight with the global response to the event, adding that she foresees a similar gathering taking place somewhere else in the world in the near future.
“As we continue to pray, women are empowered and we see progress in the places that we are, then I am sure we will come together again and pray,” she said. “When we come here, we learn a variety of prayers. Prayer is not learned just by reading a theory but by doing. Once we are empowered, we will go back to all parts of the world and pray with results.”
The call to prayer was a response to a seven-point mandate that included the eradication of poverty; the end of military conflict and violence against women; ecological awareness; integrity and renewal; wellness for women; protecting the rights of children; celebrating the artistic gifts of women and reading and prayer applications of the Psalms.
The proceeds accrued from the prayer meeting will go towards the Women’s Co-operative in India, La Sante des Femmes in Haiti, My Sister’s Keeper in Sudan, the Beverly Thomas Fine Arts Institute in Detroit, the 1000 Wells and 1000 Trees International Services and Development Agency, Home for Teen Mothers in Toronto and Tsepong Orphanage in Lesotho.
“Work started on the AME orphanage in 2007, but we still need a lot more funds to complete the project,” said former Lesotho High Commissioner to Canada Molelekeng Rapolaki who attended the event. “Every little bit helps to finish the building and I am very grateful for the financial support that we are getting from this initiative in Toronto.”
Esata Masters-Beals, the Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) Canadian president of the AME church, Elvire Douglas of Haiti and Joyce Keys Garrison, the president of the WMS 4th district AME church, also attended the unique gathering.