Three Presbyterian women were honored for tireless  and  effective bridge-building Sunday during the Women of Faith Awards Breakfast at the 222nd General Assembly (2016)of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Recognized by the PC(USA)’s Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries unit for their proven track records in bringing about reconciliation in their communities were:

  • Lucy Apatiki, a commissioned ruling elder at Gambell Presbyterian Church in Alaska, where she works as a sociologist and addiction counselor.
  • Sarah Noble-Moag, a ruling elder working on immigration reform and the owner of Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, New York, where she helps milk 1,700 cows three times each day.
  • Clarissa Walker Whaley, a ruling elder in Charleston, South Carolina, where she provides services for crime victims, including the nine families who lost loved ones in the shootings at Mother Emmanuel AME Church last year.

In her work, Apatiki uses prayer and Bible study to help bring healing to people trapped in addiction and other ills. “As a teen, God put it in my heart I was here to help people,” she said. “My vision is to see healthy communities all across the state of Alaska.”

Apatiki dedicated the award to her late husband, Morgan Apatiki Sr., who died on the day the news of her award was made public. Earlier, when an early-morning phone call brought the news to the household, she said, her husband “reached across the bed and patted me with pride and support.”

Noble-Moag’s seventh-generation dairy operation employs 40 people, half of them foreign-born. She has worked in her community to ensure safer working conditions and access to pre-K education to the children of immigrants.

She said she is inspired by memories of the women in her grandmother’s fellowship circle, who knitted, made blankets and collected coins for mission. “They put together amazing things with very few resources,” she said. “They paid it forward.” Walker  Whaley, a victim services professional  with  the United States Department  of  Justice,  said  she continues to work and pray with “probably 100 people who are still grieving” the loss of nine lives at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston.

“I don’t do it alone,” she said. “God sends me angels to work with me. On that evening (of the tragedy) God had already dispatched and resourced all the people who would walk” with the victims’ families and friends. “I ask you today to continue to keep them in your prayers and to undergird them in the faith that you have.”

Presbyterians are celebrating a number of milestones in the history of church women whose hearts, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons said, “were bigger than the church.”

It has been 110 years now that Presbyterians have been ordaining women as deacons, 85 years since the church has welcomed women as ruling elders, and 60 years since Margaret Towner was ordained as a teaching elder.

“Happy anniversary!” said Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries and Presbyterian Women. Parsons took time during a prayer before breakfast to thank God “for women who stood up when they were told to sit down, and spoke up when they were told to be quiet.”

Parsons, who is retiring at the end of the assembly, was recognized during the breakfast as a Gold Level Life Honorary Member of Presbyterian Women.