We are now in the season of Advent as Christmas approaches with its message of hope for the world because of the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. Whilst reading through a report from South Australia, during the early years of the formation of their unit of Australian Church Women (ACW), it mentions an Advent Service, which apparently took place each year. You can see below, in that 1965 report, that other familiar events were also noted but not always held by the Women’s United Church Association (WUCA) of South Australia.
I have said before that I find these early state and territory reports very interesting, especially when they refer to the various activities that church women were involved in throughout the seasons of the church calendar. Hopefully, you too will find interesting the following excerpt from this report and perhaps even be surprised by the many projects in which the women were engaged.
‘Ever since the visit of Mrs. Mabel Wyllie to Adelaide in May 1963, there has been a constant and growing interest evinced by delegates to W.U.C.A. in the Australian Church Women movement.
‘There has also been a certain amount of opposition and when in September 1963, a vote was taken as to whether we would be willing to act as the liaison body for the State with the Interim of Australian Church Women, six affiliated bodies voted in favour, two against, and two refrained from voting …
‘Despite such opposition it would seem that definite progress has been made over the past year, and the interest is certainly growing.
‘In May the two delegates who attended the Sydney Consultation, namely Mrs. E. Pitman and Mrs. E. Playford, together with Mrs. S. Haynes, ran a Conference Day on the theme "Australian Church Women". This proved to be so successful that time would not permit the completion in one day and we had another session in June. Both days were well attended and we felt that we were at last beginning to move.
‘In July our annual "Musical At Home" was held in the Adelaide Town Hall and through lack of a sponsor for the programme printing we were able to have the programme printed at our own expense and use the back page to print the aims of the Australian Church Women. This brought A.C.W. to the notice of the more than 600 present.
‘A number of women felt that a re-drafting of our Constitution was long overdue and this was done and presented at the business meeting after the Annual Meeting in October. Delegates had had time to read and digest this draft before the meeting and it was obvious by prolonged but worthwhile discussion of same that many had given a great deal of thought to the draft. It comes up again in March and we hope that this draft will prove to be the final one.
‘We did not observe "World Community Day" in October, but went with plans to hold our usual Advent Service on December 11. We used the theme "Christians and World Peace" and adapted the service to "Advent", the collection being for the Christmas BOWL Appeal.
‘It was our desire that this Advent Service should express the part Australian Church Women is to play within the Department of Co-operation of Men and Women in Church, Family and Society. To that end, two men and two women took part in the service; the organist was a man and the soloist a woman, and a Youth Choir comprising boys and girls from Secondary Schools and Church Schools – over 60 strong – led the singing.
‘The Lord and Lady Mayoress, Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Irvin, the Town Clerk and Mrs. Veale and other City Councillors attended and expressed appreciation for the beauty of the service and its message.
‘An all-out effort was made by the Executive and delegates to interest as wide a cross-section of the community as possible, and although the attendance was far below our expectations (350 or more, comparing favourable with the 70 or so of last year) it was a great improvement on previous years. The collection amounted to £54. (£ll in 1963)
‘We have been happy to receive the utmost co-operation and helpful advice from the Secretary of the South Australian Council of Churches, the Rev. Alan Gray, who at all times has seen that news of Australian Church Women activities is publicised. Since August the W.U.C.A. has had the privilege of attending the monthly Council of Churches meetings, and our representative, has been encouraged to speak. Notice of our Advent Service was included in the World Council of Churches Fellowship Newsletter which goes out to more than 700.
‘Although the special days of Fellowship and World Community Day were not observed in 1964, it is planned to hold both this year, in addition to our usual "At Home" and Advent Service.
‘Already there is much interest in the Winifred Kiek Scholarship Scheme, and Miss Molly Trait, Columnist of the "Advertiser" wrote an article for us just prior to the Advent Service, and it has been forwarded for the perusal of the Consultation.
‘Concerning the Scholarship, however, it is recommended that Australian Church Women collect sufficient money in the Trust Account before the Scholarship is launched and someone invited to come to Australia, thus assuring its continuance.
‘One fund-raising function was held by Mrs. Playford – a Floral Art night – and the amount of £3 is being held by our treasurer, and will be forwarded shortly.
‘There is little to report on the Fellowship of the Least Coin except to say that no real attempt has been made by us this past year to promote it. This we hope to do early in the year. The YWCA were most interested and have taken more than 100 leaflets to distribute to their members.
‘It is planned that each delegate take a number of leaflets and that each denomination be responsible for the distribution of same and the collecting of the money which will be dedicated at a time to be arranged — probably at World Community Day each year.
‘Our President, Mrs. E.S. Playford, is also on the executive of P.W.M.U. [Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union] in this State and travels in the country with executive members. She takes every opportunity to spread the news of Australian Church Women, its aims and objects, including the Fellowship of the Least Coin. All delegates have been asked to do likewise whenever the opportunity arises.
‘Early May or early June would be the most suitable time for "Fellowship Day" and October seems suitable for "World Community Day".
‘We may not seem to have progressed very far in the past year, but I am confident that what we have accomplished has indeed been a solid foundation for a future active body of women who will find themselves introduced to ecumenical experience hitherto unknown.’
May you each be blessed as you prepare yourselves during this time of Advent for the coming of the Christ child.