Led by Rev. Nellie Snowden, women in the Church of God marched onto that stage. Rev. Snowden and other women leaders read the Kerner report and felt the call to be a catalyst for positive change. In the spring of 1968, Rev. Snowden sent a letter to members of the Women’s Missionary Society (what would later become Christian Women Connection). The letter invited women to join together in fellowship to find a “direction for action.” Over 1,100 women responded by signing a pledge that said, “With God’s guidance, and in the strength and wisdom I find Him, I will dare to be an instrument of reconciliation and hope in this time of crisis.”
The women that signed the pledge were moved to action. Specifically, there were three tasks for each woman who signed the pledge. First, she was to read the Kerner Report. Next, she was to establish a person-to-person relationship with a woman of a race or economic status different from her own. Finally, she was to be active in the community by supporting a group or organization that was working toward positive change.
The more than 1,100 women became the DARE Fellowship, with DARE standing for:
- Discover the Need
- Ask for Resources
- Respond in Action
- Endure the Difficulties
Soon, letters were received from women who crossed racial and socioeconomic lines to make new friends. Letters came from congregations that worked together to hold unity services between black and white congregations. A number of women reported volunteering to help others get affordable housing and healthcare. Many of the letters and reports began the same way, “I was challenged by the D.A.R.E program to…”
Rev. Snowden and the leaders of the women’s ministry continued sending information to the women in the DARE through 1972. The letter accompanying the last mailing reads:
Although this is our final mailing, we do not feel that the tasks shared through the DARE effort have been completed, or that there is no more to say about the concerns of race, poverty, and inequality in our nation. We do feel that we have learned through our
shared experiences and materials to continue in responsible action where we feel God is calling us to act. One participant
expressed her feelings in this way, “DARE gave us a real handle to use and caused us to discover, ask, respond, and endure.
We feel that God has used this idea and has made us all better servants and better human beings and Christians.”
Many years later, in 2006, I was in a planning meeting with Rev. Snowden. I asked her about her time serving in the Women’s Missionary Society and about the meaningful experiences she had. She told me about the DARE program (It was the first I had heard of the program). She told me about a friend she gained because of the program and how meaningful the relationship had been to her through the years.
As a young woman in ministry, I was inspired by the work of the women who came before me. Women, who were called by God to share the gospel, saw an immediate need in their country and then dared to do something about it.
The D.A.R.E program did not solve all of the nation’s ills. The same issues are still with us today in society and in our churches. Like 1,100 women who chose to become “instruments of reconciliation and hope” in a time when both reconciliation and hope were in short supply, we need to accept the challenge to build relationships and make a difference.
Will you DARE to accept the challenge? Will you be an instrument of reconciliation and hope?