Since its earliest days, Australian Church Women (ACW) has distributed and produced numerous non-denominational resources for women. Some resources related to the various affiliated ministries that ACW supports, such as the Fellowship of the Least Coin (FLC), the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC) and the World Day of Prayer (WDP). Others directed our members to Christian organisations like the Bible Society, and of course there was also ACW-specific literature e.g. the Winifred Kiek Scholarship and orders of service for ACW special days.
The first Bible study produced by Australian Church Women was Saints Alive! in 1963. It was a small 18-page booklet comprising four simple studies designed to generate discussion about the Church and the role of Christians in the world. It was well received by many groups, being used by both men and women, and it demonstrated there was a need for similar material.
The preface on the first page of the study gives us an explanation of why ACW produced this resource.
‘In this study we are going to think about our task as ordinary people in the Church. After all 99% of church members are ordinary people like us.
‘How can the Church: reach out into the world? The answer ought to be – through us – its members who are already there, in homes, offices, factories, etc. This can only happen if we Christian lay people understand the problems we face in our occupations and also accept the responsibilities to be the Church wherever we are.
‘What we are trying to do, is to see what it means to be "Saints Alive". To call the ordinary Church member a saint strikes us modern Christians as strange. Yet this is what the New Testament writers meant. And if we are to recover the New Testament idea of Christian living, then we must examine fully and unreservedly this conception of "every Christian a saint".
‘Each of the studies which follows is based on a Bible passage which can be read in the group. Members of the study group should use various translations of the Bible – the New English Bible, and J.B. Phillips, the Revised Standard Version, in addition to the more traditional translations.
‘This study book has been prepared by Australian Church Women and is designed for use by denominational and inter-church women's groups or groups of men and women.
'Acknowledgement is made to a group in Melbourne who did most of the work in preparing the study.’
There were four studies in this booklet:
Once the formatting of the booklet was completed, 1500 copies were printed and single copies sold for one shilling (ten cents). The studies proved to be so popular that another 2,000 copies were ordered from the printer.
When the reception of this booklet was discussed at the 1965 ACW National Committee Meeting:
‘it was agreed that there is a need for the studies to be written in simple English, to be practical and relevant to everyday life.
‘Subjects such as a study of the Parables in relation to modern life, community welfare and issues of church union were suggested.’
Australian Church Women then resolved to print study material every two years. This commitment to study material only lasted for a few years, as ACW was soon competing with a wave of many other Christian resources that were becoming available to our Churches for equipping their people.
During the past few weeks, we have endeavoured to carry on that ACW tradition of providing Christian resources for women by making some available on our ACW website. These are not exclusive to our members; they can be viewed by anyone who visits our site.
In July, we had a month of daily prayers for Fellowship Day, one of ACW’s annual special days. July concluded with a virtual online service that was prepared for the many across Australia who were unable to gather together for worship during the Coronavirus pandemic.
October saw another month of online prayers, this time for the special day event of World Community Day. As pandemic restrictions were still in place in many areas, another virtual online service was produced and made available on our website.
Following this event, we began our first online series of mid-week devotionals titled Pause for Thought, a Christian Journey. These have been written by Ellgy, a member of ACW, who has travelled extensively around the world. The first series comprises thirty short stories of faith relating to her four-year ministry serving in Portugal.
The often-humorous situations that Ellgy found herself in during those four years illustrate the truths of God’s Word wherever we find ourselves. I’m sure you will enjoy following this mid-week Pause for Thought series.