Another look at the FLC Silver Jubilee
Going through more records of the ACW National Archives, I came across a second report by Marie Price on the celebrations held in Manila on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Fellowship of the Least Coin. This report is an expanded version, which gives even more insight to this event from an Australian perspective. One thing that stands out to me in this report is how much international relations have changed between some of the countries mentioned, whereas the desire of sincere Christian women continues to be peace and reconciliation, advocacy and support for one another, and justice for those considered to be of little worth.
‘F.L.C. SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRATION
Report by Marie Price F.L.C. Convenor
Towards the close of last November , twelve Australian Church women [sic.] met in the Philippines, with almost two hundred other Christian women, invited from thirty five countries. The splendid occasion was to commemorate twenty five fruitful years of the movement of the Fellowship of the Least Coin, which has its roots in Manila. Happily two members of the original group were present at the Jubilee ceremonies. Delegates from around the world delighted in the face-to-face meeting, the sharing in the thanksgiving to God and the messages of encouragement from such esteemed women.
‘The two were Mrs Margaret Shannon-Myers who led the International Fellowship Team from America to Asia in 1956, and Mrs Shanti Solomon, an Indian member of the team, who because of her prayer and concern for peace, was moved to inspire Christian women to pray frequently for inner peace and reconciliation with others.'
'Her unique idea of offering the smallest coin of one's country as a visible token of prayer, has tremendous appeal to ever-growing numbers of women. It was originally accepted by Philippine women who within that initial year had the first dedication of Least Coins at a conference in Manila.
‘Fitting then, that Manila should be selected to be the Host city for the Jubilee participants. Filipino hospitality was generous indeed, from the delightful gesture of large trays of luscious fruit in each room in the city hotel to the magnificence of the rural areas where delegates spent a memorable weekend. People in private homes and churches throughout the provinces had well-prepared programmes of welcome, religious services and entertainment, in order to share their way of life with the foreign visitors. During the later sharing of experiences, delegates spoke of the joy of villagers in their family life and the obvious awareness of their sense of dependence, gratitude and deep faith in God.
‘The celebration at the El Grande Hotel, Manila, was chaired by the delightful Mrs Gloria Santos who is President of ACWC. She was assisted by several committee members, among whom was our own National Representative, Mrs Rachel Cocks.
‘Excellent papers were presented on the Jubilee theme of Prayer, Partnership and Peace, and workshop discussions followed. These were valuable for the close contact with an Anglican from Canada, a Baptist from Russia, Uniting Church members from Hong Kong, U.S.A. and India. The Partnership Group was led by a delegate from Uruguay. A local Sister Mary John Mananzan, addressed the gathering on social concerns for women. The deep concern of each woman, irrespective of her religious belief or nationality, was that the love of Christ be shared by all people; that peace be in every country; that innocent men and women be freed from imprisonment; that leaders would abandon the huge expenditure of wealth for weapons and that the desperate lot of the hungry and poverty stricken be alleviated.
‘Before breakfast each day, two-room groups met for "Sambahayan" – a family meeting for prayer. In Room 341 the Filipino hostess (a charming lady who was the wife of a Bishop) organized us for readings: a mini group of nations, an African, Japanese, Korean, American and Australian, together praising God and thanking Him for His care.
‘There were serious Bible study periods and times of light-hearted singing together; solemnity at the opening Church service, where Australians carried their special Banner along with those borne by sixteen other national representatives. Later the organizing committee presented medallions for these entries. At the opening ceremony also, welcome addresses were given by dignitaries of the republic of the Philippines. There was great interest in the songs sung by national groups. Australians were justly proud of their contribution written by South Australian Mrs Margaret Knauerhase and set to music by Tasmanian Mrs Joan McKercher.
‘Great sadness prevailed one evening during the viewing of a television programme brought to the celebration by a Korean lady after having obtained permission of her Government. Her intense desire was to inform women from around the world, of the unhappy plight of thousands of her country men, women and children. At the time of the war the Koreans worked in Japan where they were citizens of no-class. They are now the unfortunate victims and descendants of the dreadful destruction and aftermath of the Atom Bombs. A limited post-war compensation was given by the Japanese, but there is a new generation which continues to suffer inherited disabilities. Women's Groups in Japan have frequently pressed the Government for financial help for the afflicted people who are unable to work and care for themselves. By showing the film it was hoped that viewers in their sympathy would later ask their Governments to release the story so that there would be a wider dissemination of the facts. The film is to be shown in Japan soon for the first time. It was recommended that the United Nations be approached for help.
‘It was a delight to meet with Australia's Prayer-Partner, Mrs Esther Galstin, Rangoon, Burma. Esther spent approximately two months trying to get permission from her Government to attend the Jubilee. Now, she is hopefully planning to visit Brisbane in March this year.
‘A grand celebration dinner was attended by each of the six Presidents of F.L.C. [ACWC] spanning the years since the beginning: surely a tremendous historic happening. Australia shared in that event through Mrs Rathie Selvaratnam who was Chair-person in 1966/70.
‘A day bus tour of metro Manila was fascinating; a picnic lunch in a shady park was an enjoyable interlude. We visited the USSR Trade Exhibition displaying many beautiful manufactured goods. In the humid heat we staggered up and down wooden stairways and through huge rooms of early furniture in the Rizal Shrine of the first national hero. It was an experience to walk across a stone bridge beneath which brown skinned boys stood in murky water holding aloft coloured nets – not to catch flying fish or butterflies, but needed pesos from generous tourists above. We admired a beautiful formal garden and prayed silently for all those who had suffered and died in that former quadrangle and in the prisons close by, through the centuries and during world war II. The Tondo foreshore area, the slum dwelling place of 27,000 families in the late sixties, was originally reclaimed for a planned international port, but immediately after the war, people unsettled from their devastated farms and homes, congregated in the space close to the city.
‘A sixty five million dollar project for improving conditions for the people, was begun in the early seventies; however, there are yet many families with shelters of palings and scrap materials. From the coach, we saw only smiling, happy faces; nevertheless much sadness and hardship must have been hidden. Stories were told of families living in a small cart holding their few possessions which they push around from place to place; they bathe in the river and eat when and where they can. Some workers earn ten pesos daily (about a dollar), and if night shift is required, they continue without the benefit of overtime pay. If workers leave their jobs for any reason, there are always many who will gladly replace them in order to buy rice for their children.
‘A sharp contrast was evident in our drive through the fabulous millionaire row, arriving at the Polo Club where we were feted with laden tables of exotic foods, hot, sweet ginger tea and iced punch. We rested on the garden seats taking in the cooler evening air and the beauty of the outline of leafy trees overhanging extensive lawns on which horses and players co-ordinated their game. We wondered how the wealthy in this life style could have any comprehension of the needs, or even the existence of the "little" people, whose only security is in the magnitude of their numbers.
‘The Manila celebration in every way was magnificent, from the simple beauty of the hand embroidery by Filipinos of participants' signatures on the altar cloth, to the quiet dignity of two ordained women celebrating the closing Eucharist, and finally the nostalgic moments when the entire group, each person holding a lighted candle, encircled the room while singing in chorus, "Take my life and let it be, ever, only, all for Thee".
‘My opportunity to share in the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Fellowship of the Least Coin in Manila, was indeed a special gift from God — I am truly grateful; and now in 1981, when each country will organize its particular commemoration, may the prayers for Peace and Reconciliation be increased and intensified.’
Women at Work, ACW National newsletter, February 1981 pp. 2–5
Archived ACW photographs and slides.