The 'Circle of Prayer' mystery
As the Executive Secretary of the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC), Shanti Solomon was responsible for promoting the program of the ACWC between the quadrennial assemblies, keeping the records of the ACWC, and promoting the Fellowship of the Least Coin (FLC). This included producing publications such as the Circle of Prayer booklet.
When I was looking back at the 1972–76 minutes of the ACWC, my eye was caught by an item in the 1973 Working Committee Minutes about the Circle of Prayer. The main business of that 1973 meeting was the upcoming assembly, but a small section was centred on a decision made about the FLC’s Circle of Prayer booklet. The minutes note:
‘The committee felt that the devotional booklet “Circle of Prayer” does not meet the need of many members and its translation into regional and national languages involves heavy expenditure, therefore, the committee decided to discontinue this devotional booklet after publishing “Circle of Prayer” vol. 5 due in 1973.’
This is in stark contrast to an item from the previous minutes where it was decided to have the Circle of Prayer published every two years, instead of once in every four years—a very dramatic change in direction.
Update: 17 June 2021
Even though it was first reported in 1967 that the Circle of Prayer would be published every two years, this did not happen before the Vol. 6 issue in 1976.
The Circle of Prayer booklet was not the only publication in those minutes that came under scrutiny because of operating costs. The minutes also recorded the action to be adopted for the project booklet.
‘The Booklet on the projects of the fellowship of the least coin should also be discontinued. In the Executive Secretary’s quarterly F.L.C. news bulletin two or three projects shall be described in detail in order to inform the members and to help them to pray more intelegently [sic].’
These publications were now to be incorporated into the quarterly FLC news bulletin, and the responsibility for translation and distribution was to change.
‘The translation and circulation of the quarterly news letter shall be the responsibility of National Women’s Committee of each member country. An explanation of the F.L.C. shall be included in the letter once a year for the information of the new members.’
This discussion on the Circle of Prayer was continued the following year in the January Planning Committee Meeting. On the first day of business, it was recorded that:
'A question was raised in reference to the Working Committee Bangkok minutes June 2–4, 1972 recommending the discontinuation of the Circle of Prayer booklet.'
There is no record of what question was asked or any discussion that took place.
Then, at the beginning of the next day's business:
'It was decided that not more than 1500 copies of the Circle of Prayer should be published in addition to the Executive Secretary's Quarterly News Bulletin as a project of A.C.W.C.'
The next mention of the Circle of Prayer is in the minutes of the 1975 Working Committee. Shanti reported that she was preparing Vol. 6 of the Circle of Prayer. So, the Circle of Prayer was definitely continuing to be produced.
I have searched through every copy of ACWC documents that I have from 1973–76, and I cannot find any record of why the decision to stop producing the Circle of Prayer was reversed. I'm very curious to know what was said, but it remains a mystery.
Of course, we know that the Circle of Prayer continued to be published, and it is still produced every two years. Today, we also have the luxury of being able to download a digital copy from the Fellowship of the Least Coin website https://www.fellowshipoftheleastcoin.org/circle-of-prayer
I’m sure this digital production has reduced the cost of publishing the Circle of Prayer, and this format will help to maintain its longevity, as well as make more funds available for FLC grants.
ACWC minutes and newsletters.