It is always interesting to look back and see what resources have been used over the years for the various ministries and programs of Australian Church Women (ACW). From the early years of ACW, the 1960s, until the late 1990s, our denominations had more and larger women’s groups than we have seen for the past twenty years. And 2020 and 2021, with the Covid-19 pandemic, have been particularly challenging for any group to meet face-to-face. However, some are adapting their meetings to connect virtually via phone, email, video conferencing technology, and social media platforms.
Some groups have even experienced an incremental increase in participants because of this ‘new’ way of holding meetings. This is certainly the case for the Victorian Unit of ACW.
Where previously, some members of women’s groups were no longer able to attend the meetings because of work and family commitments, relocation, health problems, lack of transport, and other issues, those same members are now reconnecting with their groups through virtual meetings. Virtual meetings that have increased a group’s attendance have demonstrated that there is still a desire for members to participate in these groups, despite their absence from previous meetings.
On the other hand, virtual meetings have been a handicap for those members without access to electronic devices. We need to be looking at future meetings that combine physical face-to-face meetings with a real-time connection of those members attending via electronic devices. Even though this has been the case for some time for meetings in the business world, until Covid-19 this type of meeting was rarely used for Christian women’s groups, but circumstances have dramatically changed. We are now witnesses to the emergence of this new chapter for women’s ministries.
But in our haste to adapt to change, we mustn’t ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’ by abandoning those things that are effective for our groups. We may not return to the earlier heydays of women’s groups, but there is still new life and options available for this worthwhile ministry by employing other forums for meetings, such as video conferencing.
We have much to learn from our ACW past, and that of affiliated organisations, and how our various ministries and programs progressed so successfully in our earlier years because members were thinking ‘outside the box’ and constantly promoting these activities.
In this blog post, let’s go back to February 1971 and look at the national Australian report for the Fellowship of the Least Coin (FLC). This was submitted for the 1971 ACW National Conference by Doreen Strack, the National FLC Convener. If you compare this document with the previous 1970 report (https://www.acw.org.au/post/the-fellowship-of-the-least-coin), you can see that even more innovative ideas were utilised to promote the FLC during that 12-month period. Not just locally, in Christian women’s groups across Australia, but also worldwide. Shanti Solomon and, again, Rathi Selvaratnam were at the helm of this rapid global expansion of the FLC in the second half of the 1960s and early 1970s. Rathi was particularly creative and conscientious in her approach to promoting the FLC, especially when these were the days of ‘snail mail’ and limited methods of communication. It is said that she replied to 70 letters per day! Rathi was a remarkable woman.
1971 Fellowship of the Least Coin Report
‘The new information leaflet which we printed early in 1970 has been widely distributed, together with labels and "Gifts of Prayer" – which contains lists of allocations. The "Blue" Allocation book Is also available, this contains details of allocations during1967, 68, 69 & 70.
‘Circle of Prayer Volume IV has been eagerly awaited all the year and will be ready for distribution in 1971. The contributors to this booklet are from 24 different countries, with the theme "Who is my Neighbour?"
‘In September 1970 the Aslan Church Women's Conference was held In Indonesia. Here again It was emphasised that the coin offering was a prayer token so that it was important that all members of the fellowship give the same token which Is their least coin – the cent [for Australians]. The Conference decided that an Executive Secretary of the Fellowship of the Least Coin be appointed to administer and promote this movement, working in close co-operation with the East Aslan Christian Conference.
‘We are pleased to announce that Mrs Shanti Solomon, the founder of F.L.C., has been appointed to this position.
‘The highlight of 1970 was the visit of Mrs Rathie Selvaratnam of Ceylon who is immediate Past President of the Aslan Church Women's Conference and Chairman of the Central Committee of F.L.C. She has done much to promote the Fellowship as she has travelled extensively, as well as producing literature and handling allocations and was an inspiration to meet and listen to while here In Australia. She came to Australia as the guest speaker to the World Christian Women's Fellowship at their World Assembly in Adelaide in October. She was able to visit Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney also, where special meetings were arranged for her.
‘A film strip showing projects helped by F.L.C. Is now available to be shown to groups.
‘F.L.C. are sponsoring the booklet "Fragments of War" written by Mrs Jill Perkins about the work of Asian Christian Service and are available from State Council of Churches for sale at 60 cents each – proceeds are for Asian Christian Service.
‘I wish to record my appreciation of the work done by all State Conveners who have been diligent in their service every year and also thank all for the privilege of my term of office. This has been an experience which has enriched my life in many ways and I pray that all have found blessing In this fellowship of prayer and reconciliation.
Yes, we still have much to learn from our past members, especially in the area of publicity and promotion of our organisation and activities and programs.
Rathi(e)’s name was often spelt with an ‘e, however, I knew her as Rathi without an ‘e’. If Rathie has been used in the documents that I transcribe, then I do not change this spelling.