September 5, 2015
United Methodist Ministries and the Big Garden are delighted to announce that Harriett Jane Olson, General Secretary and CEO of the United Methodist Women, will be the keynote speaker for our 50th anniversary event in April. Friday evening will consist of a locally-sourced gourmet dinner banquet, keynote address, and gospel choir. Saturday will feature an engaging mix of hands-on workshops on poverty & food security, spring canning, organic gardening techniques, and the history of United Methodist Ministries. We will also include bus tours to some of our community gardens and our new campus site. The event will be held at First United Methodist Church, Omaha.
Olson has led the national administrative and policymaking arm of United Methodist Women, an 800,000 member organization within The United Methodist Church, since 2007. Its purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. United Methodist Women members give about $20 million each year for mission work related to women, children, and youth in the United States and around the world, including the Big Garden.
In 2012, United Methodist Women designated United Methodist Ministries as its first new National Mission Institution in thirty years. According to United Methodist Women, National Mission Institutions are organizations that "are empowering women, caring for children, educating and building youth, looking after the neglected, advocating for social justice issues, creating economic opportunities, and changing neighborhoods." United Methodist Ministries currently fulfills this mission through its Big Garden and Volunteers in Mission programs.
A Harvard Law School graduate and attorney, Olson specialized in real estate and environmental law (1983-1996) before working for the church full-time. Prior to leading United Methodist Women, Olson served at the United Methodist Publishing House as senior vice-president for publishing, editor for church school publications, and United Methodist Church book editor. She supervised a staff of 125-150 persons responsible for the development, production and trade distribution of resources from Abingdon Press, Cokesbury, and Kingswood Books.
Olson has a long history of service in the United Methodist Church. From 1988-1996, she was a director of the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship and was a delegate to the 1988, 1992 and 1996 General Conferences of the denomination. She also served on a number of committees in the former Northern New Jersey Conference. Among those were the conference task force on sexual harassment policy and the conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women. From 1985-1996, she spoke and taught on Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, the landmark publication that defined inclusive language needed for the church to embrace all people.
50th Anniversary Celebration
April 8th & 9th, 2016
First UMC, Omaha