‘New Churches are opening up almost overnight’
Would you believe that the statement above came from Canberra?
This surprising statement was made in the 1969 working papers of Australian Church Women in a report from May Goodie, Secretary of Canberra Church Women.
What was the context of such a statement?
Was May reporting on church growth in another city or another country?
No, she was referring to the city of Canberra, our national capital, and what was happening at the time in the church arena.
After her enthusiastic opening paragraph, May wrote: ‘Unrealistic as it may seem, the larger Canberra grows the smaller becomes the congregations.’ This is a more familiar situation in Australia that most of us have witnessed as our towns and cities expand, but the old congregations do not grow exponentially to replace the members who have moved to new areas.
Here is May’s Canberra report:
‘Canberra Church Women has again had a happy and favourable year. We have endeavoured to interest all the women in the A.C.T. in Canberra Church Women and especially the Special Days. Canberra Is growing so fast and new Churches are opening up almost overnight, it Is difficult to keep up with them. In the very new areas different systems are being used on an United [sic] basis to try and draw the women together.
‘We observed Fellowship Day and World Community Day during the year, with a great deal of help and inspiration from the Orders of Service. Unrealistic as it may seem, the larger Canberra grows the smaller becomes the congregations. We have tried having more than one service in outer suburbs, but this does not bring along more women either.
‘For Fellowship Day we began with the Service and went straight into the discussion groups, in which the ladles participated with great interest.
‘For World Community Day we had three speakers, who each spoke for about five minutes on one question and then the discussion was open to the congregation for further discussion and questions. Both these days were cold and wet, therefore the attendances were poor but those who did brave the elements commented on the help they had received from the Services.
‘We also observed Women's World Day of Prayer in two centres.
‘At present Canberra Church Women has plans under way of forming an Emergency Volunteer Service for needy people in our community. It is not desirable that we form a completely new organization, but that we try to assist already existing ones who need voluntary help often at short notice. A small committee has been formed to formulate the many ideas and needs suggested. It is felt that this vital assistance will have to move slowly and it may be some time before It is fully operative.
‘Our main problem at present is to get all the Church women's groups interested in Canberra Church Women and ultimately In the Special Days.’
The second last paragraph of this report from Canberra demonstrates that Australian Church Women has always been more than the mistaken belief that it is just a women’s fellowship meeting. In 1969, there were limited avenues of ministry across the denominations for women, but these women actively sought ways they could minister in their communities. Over the years, as barriers were broken down and opportunities increased, ACW became rich with members who joined during their active and retiring years in ministry.
These women were far more than just ‘tea-making’ representatives of fellowship groups in their denomination. Many of these women were ground-breaking pioneers in their ministry, and they faithfully and sacrificially served the Kingdom of God.
Today, ACW members are active in a variety of ministries that serve their local communities, the wider Church in Australia, and international partners and projects.
Have a look at the faithful ministry of just a few of the women remembered in our Honouring Australian Church Women books: