Episcopal Church and the United Nations

Inside #CSW63: The Dignity of Humanity

April 12, 2019
Episcopal UN

The Rev. Gena Davis is the founder of YogaMass®, a program that integrates yoga, breath work, meditation, and Holy Communion as a way to bring into self-awareness the body and spirit that is given to each of us by God. The following was written during the United Nations 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and the language has been preserved to reflect the time of authoring.

Have you ever had the feeling you were standing in a space that held the cries of all of
humanity’s suffering and also the birth pangs of new beginnings? I was in awe as I stood inside
the United Nations General Assembly building and looked out over the Manhattan skyline with
the 193 member nation flags enveloping the space that had been set apart to collectively bring
well-being, equality, and dignity into our world, a planet in her truest nature without borders.
Last week, March 11-15, 2019, I was attending the United Nation’s 63rd annual gathering of The
Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in NYC. We were invited to offer YogaMass as a
parallel event for attendees from all over the world as a way to empower women bodily,
socially, and spiritually. It was an honor to empower women and to encourage respect for the
whole self—mind, body, soul, and spirit.

The United Nations infrastructure itself was a testimony to the immense global cooperation of
the 193 member states who desire world peace, humanitarian aid, human rights, and
community sustainability. I felt a deep sense of connection to the Baptismal vows we say in the
Episcopal Church as we promise to “respect the dignity of every human being.” The mission was
clear: dignity and the right of every human being to live a decent life with access to clean water,
sustainable community, economic development, health care, education, and social protection.
In the United States, we often take these basic human rights for granted, while in some
countries, the struggle still continues for basic survival, especially in areas of high poverty and
war-torn areas. When in survival mode, I was acutely aware that spiritual advancement and
self-actualization are beyond what the daily struggle to live allows.

As we walked the halls of the United Nations, my heart grew heavy. I saw photos of children
without access to clean water (a startling total of 2.1 billion people in 2015,) child soldiers
laying down the automatic weapons that they had been forced to use on others and the
impact of the atomic bomb explosion in Nagasaki that melted the concrete statue of St. Agnes
at a Roman Catholic Church. Why? How could such cruelty have been unleashed by humankind
against one another? I am so grateful for the work of the UN, and yet in spite of the good
works, it was clear that so much more needs to be done.

I was proud of the delegates of The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion from all around
the world participating in the meetings to work toward empowering women and girls
politically, economically, civically, socially and in education. I witnessed the Church working for
gender equality, LGBTQ rights, food and water insecurity, human rights for women workers, to
name a few of the issues. I was hopeful when I met team members from St. George’s Episcopal
Church in Fredericksburg, VA, who brought mothers and daughters from their parish with their
female priest—they were a beautiful example of teaching the next generation to be strong and
courageous! At the opening Eucharist of The Episcopal Church, the preacher offered
profoundly, “Words without actions are empty. Our faith is bolstered through our works.”

The work of UNCSW is critical as we work toward human rights and gender equality. I am
grateful to the UNCSW for raising up women and girls as an equal gender whose voice must be
heard. Until the masculine and feminine voices are balanced, we must persevere, because
survival our planet and humanity depend on this balance and harmony. Nature teaches us
about balance—without balance, the ecosystem is in danger. The issue of female gender
marginalization is not new—Jesus dealt with it too. Jesus had a conversation in broad daylight
with the woman at the well and empowered her with new life. Jesus sat at Martha’s table
enjoying meals, and Jesus empowered her sister Mary who sat and his feet and soaked up his
wisdom. Jesus included women in his circle of friends, giving women self-worth and value.

YogaMass at the UN created sacred space where Spirit was invited to be a part of the
conversation. As much as the meetings happening at the gathering critically needed intellectual
perspectives, the women gathered at YogaMass recognized the gift of being aware of Spirit in
our midst and the importance of prayer that incorporates the whole self. A Taiwanese woman
gratefully told me that she would go back to her country and incorporate her faith and
honoring of her body in her social work. An African woman commented that she was
empowered to listen to her intuition and exercise feminine leadership as part of the gifts she
brings to the table. Tears flowed as women reconnected with their hearts and their bodies as
temples of the divine Spirit. Witnessing women embracing a renewed honoring of who they
are, created in the image of God, was a beautiful gift.

Women, men, girls, and boys—from every country and community locally and globally—need
the basic support and infrastructure to grow into the knowledge and love of God, knowing that
the Divine Light within them infuses their unique gifts that they offer the world. Our work must
continue until every child can shine his and her light. Let us teach our children—all children,
boys, and girls, everywhere—to shine until the whole world is lit up with God’s light and love as
infinite as the stars in the heavens.

May the Light of Christ within you shine brightly!


The Reverand Gena Davis (Diocese of Texas) is an ordained Episcopal priest, author, a certified yoga educator in Nosara Yoga, Pralaya Yoga, and Amrit Yoga Nidra, a spiritual guide, and founder of YogaMass®. Until August 2017, she served as the Priest for a mission congregation in central southwest Houston, Texas, Grace Episcopal Church. Her calling expanded to lead YogaMass into the wider community and to share the message of awakening to and embodying Christ Consciousness. 

Ms. Lynnaia Main

Episcopal Church Representative to the United Nations

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