She’s humble, reserved, and soft-spoken. You might never guess she is the leader of a global ministry with operations in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and America. In fact, the Unity Women’s Desk is the only undertaking of the worldwide Moravian Unity based in the United States. And The Rev. Patricia Finks Garner wrote the proposal to create it and has led it since its inception in 2011. As coordinator, she oversees the work of the Advisory Board and the regional Sub-Desk Coordinators in Africa, the Caribbean, America, and Europe.
The mission of Unity Women’s Desk is six-fold:
- Enabling women and girls to become educated through scholarships
- Supporting programs to reduce violence against women
- Empowering women as business owners through microloans and lending circles
- Improving healthcare for women and children through supplies and training
- Instruction in “Parenting for Justice” to raise the next generation to be respectful of women
- Establishing women in ministry through scholarships and mentoring
Her own journey to ministry started in her mid-teens. She felt God’s call in the Brethren Church where she grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of northern Virginia. The Brethren Church had been a part of the Unity until the Synod of Olney in 1763. Like The Rt. Rev. Blair Couch, Patricia was advised that marrying a minister was the appropriate response to her call. So, when she left Virginia to attend High Point College on scholarship, her plan was to pursue a degree in Religion and to meet an aspiring minister. She did meet the love of her life, Harold Hoots Garner, Jr. at High Point College, but he was not planning to be a minister. So, for a time, her calling to ministry remained out of reach.
As a Moravian, she enrolled in Gemeinschaft Spiritual Formation Program to help develop her own spiritual life. The three-year program focused on the journey inward, the journey outward to discern a ministry of service, and the study of Christian creeds. Afterwards, she was more certain than ever of her calling.
The Rev. Garner was a 1998 graduate of Moravian Theological Seminary. She served as pastor at Trinity Moravian Church in Winston-Salem 1998 – 2004, Good Shepherd Moravian Church in Kernersville 2004 – 2005, and at Fries Memorial Moravian Church in Winston-Salem 2005 – 2010.
The Rev. Garner’s ministry led her to attend several international women’s conferences. After her retirement from parish ministry, she felt compelled to write a proposal to establish the Unity Women’s Desk and felt the call to lead it. In 2011 the Unity Board approved her proposal and appointed her for a two year term as the Coordinator. She oversees the work of the Advisory Board of the Unity Women’s Desk, which is composed of four women (1 each from Africa, America, Europe, and Caribbean/Latin America). She’s operated the Unity Women’s Desk as a volunteer Coordinator for the last 7 ½ years, thus eliminating most administrative costs. After starting the UWD, she attended a Maya Angelou Women’s Health Forum where she saw the United Nations’ list of supplies for clean birthing kits, which have become an important aspect of the UWD’s work.
“Many have donated their time, talents and services to support this effort.”
The Rev. Garner has never taken a salary because her service is her own gift of love. “I could not sleep at night if I took a salary for what it would take an American woman to do the job,” she said. “I would know that even $12,000 a year could send 6 women to college in Africa or hundreds of girls to primary or secondary school.”
Now The Rev. Garner has the opportunity encourage, support and enable women like Dena Fortuzzi, who will become the first native-born Albanian Moravian pastor (of either gender). She will serve five churches in Albania.
Last year, the Unity Women’s Desk’s Standing With Our Sisters campaign raised a record $417,500 to improve the lives of women around the world. The Moravian Ministries Foundation in America was proud to provide campaign consulting services for this effort.
“As Americans, we are so blessed and have so much. And many of our sisters have so little. If we could just share a part of what we have been given, we would realize the way Christ’s Church is supposed to be,” said a truly Amazing Moravian Woman, The Rev. Patricia Finks Garner.