With the 2021 Fellowship Day not far away, this week’s post is focused on this Special Day on the calendar of Australian Church Women (ACW). Our theme this year is in two parts:
‘Moving Forward in Faith’ is the overall theme for the current National Executive during their two years in office.
‘Holiness in the Ordinary’ is the sub-theme prepared by the Australian Capital Territory Unit of ACW.
When I perused the old Fellowship Day orders of service from the earlier days of ACW, I noticed there were two that had similar themes to this year’s service. One was from 1978 and its theme was: ‘The Way Ahead’, the other was an earlier service from 1964 with the theme of ‘Sharing the Common Life’.
The 1978 order of service began with the congregation listening to a recording of the song Prepare ye the way of the Lord. You may recall that this song came from Godspell, the hugely popular musical composition produced in 1971, based on the New Testament Gospel of Matthew. To refresh your memory, here is a short video clip from a production at the First Presbyterian Church Davenport, Iowa, in the USA. Just click to play the video.
I’m sure that brought back some memories, even if you only previously heard it played on the radio. I have the album somewhere in the garage but no longer a record player.
Our earlier Fellowship Day Services usually included a study that was held during or close to the time of the service. One of the questions asked in the study for ‘Sharing the Common Life’ was:
‘Christians are very ordinary people making extraordinary claims.’ – DT Niles.
‘1 John 1:1–4 suggests that evangelism consists of declaring not inviting.
What difference ought this to make to –
i. Your conversation in the street
ii. Your church magazine
iii. The leadership of the worship of the congregation
iv. The possibility of a united campaign of Christian evangelism in your district?’
A question that remains valid today.
Rev. Dr DT Niles was a well-known Christian leader, theologian, evangelist-preacher, ecumenist and administrator from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and he firmly believed that Christianity needs to be expressed in all of life’s situations, including the ordinary things. Dr Niles was well acquainted with the Australian Council of Churches (ACC), and both the Fellowship of the Least Coin (FLC) and the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC), before he became the General Secretary of the East Asia Christian Conference (EACC) from 1959–1964.
In 1957, when the task of administering the FLC Fund was given to the EACC, Rev. DT Niles was its chair. Rev. Niles would send unsolicited grants to projects that were assisting women and children. It was said that he saw this approach as one of encouragement for those groups and their projects. This is how church women in Australia were introduced to the FLC (https://www.acw.org.au/post/australia-is-introduced-to-the-flc)
In 1967 when our beloved Rathi Selvaratnam was tasked with preparing the 1968 World Day of Prayer Service, she collaborated with a number of colleagues, including Dr Niles, to make the service representative of Asia.
I find it is always interesting to look back at these services and see their content and gain a sense of what the members of ACW were focusing on then. To help you focus on this year’s service two weeks of daily prayers commenced on Friday 16 July.
Special Days: https://www.acw.org.au/special-days
Rathi Selvaratnam and World Day of Prayer https://www.acw.org.au/post/world-day-of-prayer-and-rathi-selvaratnam
Rev. Dr DT Niles https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._T._Niles