By Mr. Kevin Stabinsky (IMCOM)May 6, 2011
New stories begin beginnings when old ones end, and the Fort McPherson Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) welcomed a new beginning after closing the book on one of the oldest PWOC chapters in the country.
The Fort McPherson PWOC, created Jan. 1, 1960, ended its charter during its final meeting at the Fort McPherson Post Chapel April 28 after more than 50 years of service in the community.
"This is a bittersweet day, but hopefully more sweet than bitter," said Lorene Hutchinson, Fort McPherson PWOC president.
The bitterness came from the dissolving of an organization that was more Family than group. "We're like a Family. We have a bond not found in many places," Hutchinson said.
Much of the cohesion came from the fulfillment of the four aims of all PWOC chapters, said Tracy Phillips, wife of Chap. (Lt. Col.) Bob Phillips, U.S. Army Garrison chaplain. The four aims of PWOC are: to lead women to accept Christ as Savior and Lord; to teach women the history, beliefs and programs of the church, all built on a solid foundation of worship and Bible study; to develop in women the skills of prayer, evangelism, stewardship and social service while accentuating personal spiritual growth; and to involve women in the works of the chapel based on their abilities and interests.
Tracy said the group accomplished these aims through weekly Bible studies and fellowships, retreats and community outreach.
Community outreach involves projects such as working with the United Service Organization, a nonprofit organization that provides morale and recreational services to the military, working with the Savannah Street Mission in Atlanta and sending gift boxes overseas, Hutchinson said. Doing these projects, as well as allowing members to participate in decision making processes, also helped build the Family-like bonds in the group, she added.
By strengthening the organization internally, the group was able to make the world around them better, said Beth Mills, PWOC International president.
"You've truly been a light shining in this place," said Mills, who served as guest speaker at the event. "This place is a gateway, a portal, between heaven and earth. You've left a mighty legacy in this place."
Carrie Wright said she was proud of direction the PWOC took. One of the founding members of the Fort McPherson PWOC, she said the group was founded with the ambition of creating a group motivated to do God's work and find strength to do so in unity. It was a goal she was glad to see realized at the end. Though ending, Mills said the group can't think of the dissolution in those terms.
Recalling a memory of watching a sunset on the beach while on a vacation to Hawaii, Mills said the women need to understand while the sun is setting somewhere, it is also rising somewhere else. "Let your light shine forth," she said, referring to the Gospel of Mathew 5:13-16, which refers to Christians as the light of the world and a city set on a hill. "Embrace the call to be the city on the hill."
Mills also left the group with encouragement as the transferred from "a gathering to scattering." "The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives and dwells in each one of us," she said. Mills added though many may be saddened by the end of the Fort McPherson PWOC chapter, they need to remember Jesus' final command to his disciples. "In the great commission, Jesus commanded his followers to go and make disciples," Mills said. "Jesus didn't say stay and disciple, he said go and disciple."
Chap. Phillips, who also served as the chaplain advisor for the Fort McPherson PWOC, said he has no doubt the women will fulfill the requirement to make disciples and spread the good news, describing PWOC as the most powerful ministry in Army. "It's real, 1-on-1, and reaches out and touches people where they need it," Phillips said. To symbolize their commitment to the call to continue their work beyond Fort McPherson, the women closed the ceremony by each lighting a candle and processing out of the chapel with it in hand.
"There's no reason to let our lights go out," Hutchinson said. "We go out but our lights do not go out. Our work will not end. We'll make a difference whether in this PWOC or another."