A small group of motivated individuals gathered at ETSU’s UKirk Ministries on March 27 to discuss and address contemporary issues—women’s health, women in the military and our government.

The event, “Making Change Happen for Women,” was hosted by UKirk director Olivia Marenco, and took place at the UKirk Presbyterian Campus Ministry center on 1412 College Heights Rd on Tuesday evening.

The evening’s discussion was led by representatives Ruth Taylor Read and 1SG Cindy Humphrey from the Northeast Tennessee chapter of Women Matter, a not-for-profit group which was created in 2013 in opposition to Tennessee’s Amendment 1.

Women Matter provided a detailed overview on how to (and how not to) approach one’s local and/or state representatives in a number of situations in order to raise awareness on vital topics such as sexual assault, comprehensive sex education and comprehensive healthcare for women.

At the lecture, Read presented Women Matter’s mission statement/purpose in activism. “We advocate for women’s interests and raise awareness of issues that impact the lives of women in our community…”

When it comes down to initiating change, one must begin somewhere—what better place than in your local district?

Once you find out who your district’s representative is, you should begin organizing your plan.


In Tennessee, you can find this at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators/

After you first evaluate your own personal values and opinions, you should then write your representative a letter or an email. Preferably an email if you expect an expedient response.

The structure of your email or letter matters, and it should be worded with respect for the representative’s own viewpoints as well as his/her time and effort. Don’t be dismayed if you receive an automatic email apologizing for the representative’s busy schedule; they still don’t want to disappoint their constituents.

Before meeting with your representative, you should form a group of “no more than 4-5 people, and assign roles…and name a group leader,” according to Read.

Once a resolute topic is agreed upon, the details of the information you want to convey to your representative must be known by the advocating group’s participants backward and forward. As Read mentioned, “Focus on one issue at a time…and be informative.”

Cindy Humphrey was sure to stress the importance of politeness and courtesy. According to Read, one should be prepared to have approximately 10-15 minutes with your representative, and when the meeting commences, be sure to introduce yourself as a “constituent” of said representative’s district.

Women Matter of Northeast Tennessee are now taking on the topic of, “the role of females in today’s military.”

Coming up soon, there will be a discussion on the subject with U.S. Congressman Phil Roe who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

UKirk, according to Marenco, is a “new ministry supported by the Presbyterian churches in the area…we focus on connection, inclusion, and love.”

Ukirk holds an event every Tuesday from 4-5 p.m. called Open Space. This event is designed to “integrate and celebrate identity as LGBTQ+ and religious/spiritual,” said Marenco.

If your group is interested in partnering with UKirk and raising awareness about an important contemporary issue, please contact Olivia Marenco at olivia@presbyhouse.org.