May 8: UCW 60th Anniversary

Scripture Reading (CEB) 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted. 19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it.

Our Time, Talents, and Treasures of the Past, Present and Future
Adapted from a sermon by Elaine Burrows, President of Maritime UCW (January 2022)

(The Past:   Light a Candle)  We honour the past with this candle.

From the Song of Faith – A statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada, approved by General Council in August 2006” comes these words.

We sing of a Church

seeking to continue the story of Jesus

by embodying God’s presence in the world

Our ancestors in faith

bequest to us experiences of their faithful living;

upon their lives our lives are built.

When the United Church of Canada was formed in June 1925, the two major women’s organizations continued. There was the Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) which focused on worldwide mission and education.  The other group was the Women’s Association (WA) which focused on the needs of the local congregation and community. In some communities, there was the Ladies Aid and other local women’s groups.

From The Voices of United Church Women for all church purposes:  The Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) had a budget of $1.5 million a year, and a staff of 165 people at work in 80 centres across Canada, with 97 active missionaries around the world as nurses, doctors, teachers, etc. They also helped to set up a network of study groups to help groups learn about mission work.

The world kept changing, and so did the women’s groups over the years.

From the book “Ordinary Heroes” page 21, we learn that in 1960 the United Church General Council approved the formation of a new organization for women to “share in a much more meaningful way in the work of the church within the congregation, Presbytery, Conference, and in the various boards of the church under the General Council.” This meant that the Women’s Association (WA) and the Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) would be united under one name.

The United Church Women was created on Jan. 1, 1962 by joining together the Women’s Missionary Society and the Women’s Association to unite women of the congregation for the total mission of the church.

And so the purpose of the UCW:

To unite women of the congregation for the total mission of the church and to provide a medium through which we  may express our loyalty and devotion to Jesus Christ in Christian witness, study, fellowship, and service.

With any new organization within the church, there would have been some resistance, anger, and grief about the former groups, but the women moved on.

from our own history book assembled by Rosemary Ambrose in celebration of our 50th Anniversary: 

The roots for the United Church Women of St. James’~Rosemount United Church were established in 1954 when our church received its charter. A membership of 47 was divided into five groups that could meet in homes as we had no church building at that time.  Fundraising for the new church too the form of plastic parties (Tupperware), greeting card sales, candle making, and bazaars.  Over the years the UCW supported donations to various local charities, hospitality for funerals, and even putting on a musical!

(The Present: Light a candle)  We honour the present with this candle.

From a Song of Faith (2006)

We are each given particular gifts of the Spirit.

For the sake of the world,

God calls all followers of Jesus to Christian ministry,

In the church,

some are called to specific ministries of leadership,

both lay and ordained;

some witness to the good news;

some uphold the art of worship;

some comfort the grieving and guide the wandering;

some build up the community of wisdom;

some stand for the oppressed and work for justice.

To embody God’s love in the world,

the work of the church requires the ministry and discipleship of all believers.

A lot has happened in 60 years. The world has changed. The roles of women have changed. How the United Church is organized has changed. There are both Marthas and Marys in our UCW. We need the action and the prayerfulness to carry on our work. 

Witness: We witness through our actions and what we do on a day to day basis. UCW members witnessed financially through their support of their church, the Mission and Service Fund, and local community groups. They witness through their work within their churches.

Study:
Having a devotion or a short worship and a program is a part of most United Church Women meetings.  At UCW rallies, Presbyterial/biennials, and other UCW events, having a speaker is an important part of the day’s agenda.

Fellowship:
There is fellowship in attending regular meetings, from preparing and being a part of events that take place in the church.  Plans are already in the works for the Spring Fling to take place here at SJR in June – so please, watch the bulletin for more information as it comes!

Service:
United Church Women have led the way in providing service to their church – at the local level, Presbytery/Conference now Region, and at the National level (National UCW). In these pandemic years, the UCW has adapted their fundraising strategies for the Mission and Service Fund to include the takeout dinners, as well as a pandemic care kit.  Even though they couldn’t gather as they would have wished, they ensured that their mission and ministry continued on.  And this fall – we hope that the well-loved Garage Sale might make another return!

United Church Women have prepared and lead many worship services over the years. From our Candlelight communion service, to participating and organizing World Day of Prayer services in March, worship has been a vital part of UCW.

United Church Women have been part of National United Church Women programs over the years such as the Beads of Hope (2002-2004); Sisters of the Spirit (2004). A more recent national UCW project was the “Child Well-Being Initiative” where among other work done in that area, Poverty Dolls were made and given out to politicians to raise awareness of the challenges facing many children in this country.  For the 50th anniversary of UCW, the national project was to raise $50,000.00 for the Morogoro Women’s Training Centre” in Tanzania to teach traditional birth attendants (mid-wives). The actual amount raised was over $250,000.00. The 60th anniversary project is supporting “Women for Change – Zambia, and more information will be shared during our minute for mission.”

Every UCW within their community of faith has stories to tell of their work – some funny, some serious but all showing their commitment to the life and work of their congregation and to the world beyond their walls.

(The Future: Light a candle)  We honour the present with this candle.

We need to move into places where we have not been before.”  From the Song of  Faith (2006) comes these words:

We sing of God’s good news lived out, a church with purpose:

faith nurtured and hearts comforted,

gifts shared for the good of all,

resistance to the forces that exploit and marginalize,

fierce love in the face of violence, human dignity defended,

members of a community held and inspired by God,

corrected and comforted, instrument of the loving Spirit of Christ,

creation’s mending. We sing of God’s mission.

How do the UCW members use their time and talents as the groups are aging? United Church Women have certainly contributed their time, talents and treasures to the United Church in a big way over the past 60 years. Millions of dollars have been given to the Mission and Service Fund for the many ministries across Canada and around the world. Millions of dollars in volunteer time, and money have been contributed to the local churches for them to continue their work in the communities where the churches were located. How can the Marthas and Marys continue their work in these ever changing times?

UCW members need to continue mentoring other women and men of the congregation in how to organize and run events since that is something that UCW members are good at.  Share those potato salad recipes, how to cook potatoes for potato salad without a scum on the top, how many sandwiches and sweets are needed for a reception of 100.  How does the dishwasher work? What are ways that we can recognize our own gifts for ministry and use them to transform lives? There are all kinds of ways that knowledge can be passed on without having to do the hard labour. 

United Church Women have decades of wisdom and experience that can be shared with those folks newer to the United Church, and in what is involved in the life and work of the congregation.  We are grateful for the past, and all those who have led in inspiring ways that have changed St. James’~Rosemount for the better.  We are grateful for the present and the ways that even yesterday – how people came together for one more takeout dinner to ensure important work and ministry continues. And even more – we are grateful for your presence today, for those who are already dreaming up new ways to contribute to the life and ministry that we share.  Thanks be to God.

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