Shannon Priddy recalled how deeply she felt about apartheid when she first heard of it in the early 80s.
"I said [to my parents], OK, we can't ever drink Coca Cola again until Coca Cola divests from South Africa, those kinds of things," Shannon said. "I definitely learned that injustice is in the world, and it's up to us to do something about it. As president, I think that's what I bring to this presidency."
Priddy is the national president for the United Methodist Women. On Nov. 25, she will speak during the worship service at United Methodist Church in Channahon.
According to its website, the United Methodist Women is a "supportive, inclusive Christian membership organization," which helps women "grow spiritually, develop as leaders and serve and work to create a world in which all women, children and youth thrive."
Any woman committed to the organization's purpose may join. United Methodist Women has no age or denomination requirements, the website also said.
Nov. 25 will be the third time Priddy will speak at her childhood church.
"I'll be speaking on what it means to be a United Methodist Woman today and in the future," Priddy said. "It's one of those opportunities that show we have to diversify in order to stay relevant. You can't do the same thing just because we've always done it like that or we aren't going to appeal to new women, young and old."
Changes Priddy would like to see include rewriting bylaws, changing the way meetings are organized and moving from passive to intentional communication.
"In today's world, where we are more connected than ever before – through the internet and email – we can talk to someone halfway around the world. And yet we're more alone than ever and we're more isolated than ever and it's not healthy. It's important for us to build community, and that's exactly what United Methodist Women does."
Early faith experiences
Born in Chicago, Shannon said she and her family moved to Channahon in 1984 because her father Nick Priddy (deceased), who grew up in Joliet, wanted to live closer to his mother. In fact, Nick served as chief of police in Channahon until 1993, Shannon added.
"Most of my friends [in Channahon] were Catholic, so they stayed after school on Wednesdays to go to CCD," Shannon said. "But there were five of us who went to the Methodist church. Sundays were our days to play and be kids and learn about God."
Priddy said her parents expected church attendance on Sundays, but by the time Priddy was confirmed in the eighth grade, Priddy had an understanding that one received from faith what one put into it.
What she especially appreciated from UMC Channahon was that "someone always had something to tell me," whether that message came from a member of the church community or from listening to the sermon and "hearing the truth in my life."
Priddy recalled field trips to see Methodist churches that were larger than Channahon UMC. She said it helped her to realize that "faith was bigger than your own church."
The social justice aspect
By her early 20s, Shannon was seeking out community-minded churches. And in her mid-20s, Shannon's mother Dottie Priddy invited her to attended a four-day event the United Methodist Women held on social justice.
For Shannon, who eventually served from 2009 to 2011 in the Peace Corps in Armenia, working in an non-governmental organization that helped women gain skills to obtain better jobs, she found an organization who put their faith into action.
So Shannon joined the United Methodist Women and became involved in missions, which "opened her eyes" to how the Methodist church addressed the concept of social justice.
"I wanted a community of women to support me in my being a single woman in her 30s, to really help ground my faith," Shannon, who is now 43, said. "And that's what I found in United Methodist Women."
Since the 19th century, (eight women founded the organization in 1869, the website said), United Methodist women have gone into countries to make sure girls receive health care and education, oftentimes providing the necessary personal care items for these girls so they can attend school every day of the month, Shannon said.
"We are in so many countries around the world to make sure these things happen," Shannon said.
But even in the United States, the need for social justice is present. Kids at-risk still need programs to help stop what Shannon called "the prison pipeline." Shannon, who's career consist in consulting for nonprofits in fundraising, praised the way United Methodist Woman help those in need.
"We've been doing this for 150 years," Shannon said. "We don't just go in and say, 'We think you need this.' We go in and say, 'How can we help and how can we make sure you can do this sustainably after we're gone?'"
Now – and the future
As she serves this longstanding organization that now has 800,000 members, what does Shannon bring to her role?
"I think I bring a fire and a passion and I hope it's contagious," Shannon said. "I show you can be a working woman, you can be a single woman, you can be a home owner and a car owner and still be a United Methodist Woman. I don't look like my predecessors. I have never been married. I don't have children. So I'm not the typical Methodist woman."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Shannon Priddy
WHEN: 9 a.m. Nov. 25
WHERE: Channahon United Methodist Church, 24751 W Eames St. Channahon
ETC: Priddy, the national president for United Methodist Women, will speak during the worship service