Until 1989, the Australian representative to the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC) had never resided so close, geographically, to our Asian sisters. Previous representatives had been confined to the southern capital cities, but now Darwin was home to Margaret Napier the newly elected ACWC representative. Margaret had arrived in Darwin at the beginning of July 1989 from Perth, Western Australia, where she was the Secretary of the National Executive of Australian Church Women (ACW).
In April 1989, Margaret informed the WA National Executive that her husband was being transferred to Darwin for three years for work, and she would join him there at the beginning of July. However, she would return in September to fulfil her responsibilities at the ACW National Conference — now that’s dedication. It was noted in the April minutes that ‘Margaret will have the back broken of organising the Conference by that time.’ During her absence, the other members of the National Executive willingly collaborated to cover the secretary’s work.
At the 1989 National Conference, Margaret was elected as the incoming ACWC representative. She would succeed Barbara Grealy, a much-admired ambassador for Australia, when Barbara finished her term of office in November 1990. This would be Margaret’s second participation in an ACWC Assembly, as she attended the 1986 Assembly in Bangkok as an observer.
Barbara Grealy’s final news item for ACWC appeared in the November 1990 ACW newsletter, although it was obviously written in October as the ACWC Assembly had been and gone:
‘”The time has come the walrus said to talk of many things – of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings – and if the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.” How is it that these words of Lewis Carrol, learned way back in about 1937, can still roll glibly off my tongue and yet I often can’t recall what happened last week??!!
‘Joking aside, the time HAS COME for me to prepare my final piece for ACW News because after the ACWC Assembly next month, Margaret Napier will be our Australian Representative to ACWC.’
And so began Margaret Napier’s four-year term as Australia’s representative to the ACWC. And what was Margaret’s impression of the 1990 Assembly of the Asian Church Women’s Conference in Jakarta?
‘To be part of one’s country’s delegation to a Conference such as this is always an honour and after sharing with other Christian friends there, one cannot help but appreciate and give thanks for the privileges of living in a country [Australia] with so many opportunities and such freedom.'
‘It is very humbling to experience the commitment of these women and their faith as they witness in so many different and difficult situations.
‘The Theme of the Conference "IN CHRIST FREEDOM, GROWTH & HOPE" was carried through in the Opening and Closing Worship, morning and evening prayer, bible study and group discussion. The 160 participants enjoyed the opportunity to join with the local people in Sunday worship.
‘Country reports gave us some idea of the wide and varied role of Christian women in their churches, families and communities while the Cultural Evening showed the diverse and imaginative talents of the groups.
‘Living in Darwin I have become even more conscious of our close proximity to Asia and the realisation that our future will more and more be linked with our Asian neighbours.
‘Our membership and involvement in ACWC is another way we can gain a greater understanding of each others [sic] culture. I pray that through our membership we can continue to build bridges between us.’