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‘Co-workers in Christ for Renewal’


ACW participants at the 1982 ACWC Assembly in Bali.

In 1982, another exciting assembly was held by the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC) from 15–20 October. It was the 7th Quadrennial Assembly, and this time it was at Dhyana Pura, Bali, in Indonesia. The theme was ‘Co-workers in Christ for Renewal’, and there were 10 participants from Australia, nine from Australian Church Women (ACW) and one a guest speaker, Mrs Dorothy McMahon (later Rev.), from the executive of Australian Council of Churches.

Those from ACW were Mrs Marie McCann from New South Wales; Mrs Dianna Johnson from the Northern Territory; Mrs Barbara Grealy and Mrs Beatrice Mason from South Australia; Mrs Rachel Cocks (national representative), Mrs Jan Easther and Mrs Captain Lynette Green from Tasmania; Mrs Olive Ackland from Victoria; and Mrs Vera Wilson from Western Australia.

Olive Ackland wrote an article for Women at Work, the ACW newsletter, which is filed in the archives of ACW. In the photo above, Olive is on the far left in the middle row. Here is an excerpt from her account:

‘Bali – unique arts, culture and ceremonies, a gentle, hospitable people, scenic beauty – all combined at the secluded Retreat Centre of the Indonesian Council of Churches, Dhyana Pura – a perfect setting for this Assembly of 100 delegates and observers from 16 countries and from associated World bodies.


‘QF 29 touched down at about 6 p.m. October 15, at last we were actually here – after all the fuss about visas, it was rather an anti-climax to be waved straight through customs – a relief to find a welcoming face and a mini-bus ready to transport us to the other end of the island or so it felt as we hurtled along crowded main streets then bumped along dusty unmade roads. By the time we arrived it was pitch dark – all seemed confusion but I guess it was only us who were confused – everyone else had arrived and had been allotted rooms and had been having a rehearsal for the opening ceremony. The lights failed several times that evening so here we were trying to find rooms and have dinner – just my luck to forget to take a torch – it was only on the first night that we had problems with the lights.


'It was rather a shock to find no hot water or cooling and very basic accommodation in the cottages – the temperature stayed the same day and night – HOT – for a Melbournite used to rapid changes in temperature it was rather hard to take but all the difficulties were coped with and forgotten as the Assembly began and we were caught up in the inspiring experience of fellowship with our cottage mates, our prayer partners and women from all different countries.


'Excellent address, inspiring Bible study and great discussions in the Commission workshops – plenty of exercise both mentally and physically – walking between the assembly area, administration office, dining area and cottages carrying our bag of Assembly papers helped us to unwind after busy sessions. Days began early with family prayers before breakfast at 7.30 and finished around 10.30 p.m. – no wonder we slept very well.

‘There were four to each cottage and my cottage mates were from Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Asian women are used to rising early so it was a shock to be awakened on the first morning at around 5 a.m. – everyone but me was up and dressed and suggesting a walk to the beach before family prayers might be pleasant – it was very pleasant. I found that this time of family prayer was the most precious time of the day as we sat on our cottage porch, God's beauty all around us, we opened our hearts to each other – our concerns and our joys – we became very close to each other.

‘Another special time was finding our prayer partners – according to the official list I was paired with Jane from Taiwan but the Taiwanese had problems with their visas and although they could remain at the Assembly they were not allowed to take part in the meeting, not even the opening ceremony. At first it was said I would be allotted someone else and Ranjini from Sri Lanka claimed me as she could not find her partner, but that was not to be as her partner came along just as we started to walk together. I finally met up with Jane and we were able to talk about her problems and mine and of how we could pray for each other during the next four years. I think the exciting part since the Assembly has been receiving Christmas cards from these special people.

‘So many highlights during the Assembly I feel I could go on for a long time but the Editor has put a limit to my article and I hope to share from time to time through Women At Work throughout the year. I will content myself with just one or two for now.

‘Australia had to prepare Vespers for the Sunday night – after discussion among our delegation it was decided that because we had been talking and listening non-stop it would be better to prepare a time of quiet meditation and how right that proved to be. Sunday began early as the local committee had arranged for us all to be taken to local Balinese Churches so early breakfast followed by Bible Study, visit to the Church and an afternoon of Commissions and business sessions left all rather tired by the evening. The evening was a Sharing on Peace which became a time of tension [some women were concerned at government activities in some Asian countries], so the vespers we had prepared helped to break the tension. After opening prayers with tapes of hymns sung by the Aboriginal Choir at Ernabella, brought by Bernice Mason, were played; Marie McCann led us in prayers for peace, Di Johnson read one of Bruce Prewer's Australian Psalms and then we led the Assembly in singing "A New Commandment". All joined hands for the Benediction and then quietly left.

‘I guess the final highlight for me was to be elected to the Executive Committee – a responsibility I accepted with great trepidation – with the support from Australian Church Women I feel I may be able to fulfil this role.’

Photographs of the assembly participants were taken with the understanding that the photos could be used for publicity or historical purposes of both the ACW and ACWC organisations.

Request:

Are you able to identify which ladies are Dianna Johnson or Bernice Mason in the photo at the top of this page? Please advise me if you can. My email is donna.bryan@salvationarmy.org.au

If anyone has or knows the whereabouts of any other photos from this 7th assembly, I would love to hear from you as, unfortunately, the ACWC does not have photos of this assembly in their records.


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The Herstory Blog of Australian Church Women Inc. will tell the stories of the women and activities of this Christian organisation that was founded in February 1965.

Stories that inspired and encouraged me to begin this blog and share their inspiration with you. Stories that need to be told so that the women of ACW can be honoured and celebrated for their achievements and experiences in local, national and international communities of faith. And, most importantly, stories that demonstrate being disciples of Jesus Christ firmly underpins all that Australian Church Women represents.

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Australian Church Women Inc. seeks to unite Christian women across denominational boundaries and to promote peace, understanding and unity through faith and love in one God –Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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