Anglican Church Newcastle

AW Service: giving thanks for the ministry of all women

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On 6th June 2017 women from around the Diocese of Newcastle – from the Upper Hunter, the Manning in the north to the Central Coast in the south – gathered at the Cathedral to celebrate the Ministry of ALL women, lay and ordained. This year the service took part in the wider context of the Bi-annual Provincial Conference of Anglican Women Australia.

The conference attracted women from many other Australian dioceses, as well as overseas guests – Lisa Towle, President of Episcopal Church Women in the United States; and Lucille Henniker, President of the Church Women’s Fellowship of Southern Africa, and their Provincial Secretary Jacoba Kleinsmith.

The Eucharist was con-celebrated by Bishop Peter Stuart and Bishop Kay Goldsworthy, Bishop of Gippsland.

In her sermon Adn Sonia Roulston said: “We give thanks not only for public ministries, but also for the often unseen and yet essential ministries of so many women in our churches – as Sunday School teachers, GFS, children’s ministry, and youth group leaders, organists, choristers, cleaners. Those who arrange the flowers, wash linen, work in catering guilds and op shops, type newsletters, welcome people to church, serve morning tea, visit the elderly and sick, and more recently have joined those teams serving at the altar. We give thanks for the many women who have taken their place in church life, often quietly and humbly, and who have been a force for good … by … and through … the grace of God’s Spirit.” This was shown visually by the symbols of ministry brought forward and placed before the altar.

In her annual report, AW President, Marion Willey said: “In looking to the future, Anglican Women Newcastle is considering where its path lies, in a time where in some countries Christians face active persecution; in others, as in ours ­– disillusionment, apathy, materialism; and the shame and hurt of facing a past which has included wrong doing in the treatment of the vulnerable and its cover up, and of those who have sought to uncover it. We find ourselves in the situation where both our Church and the society in which we live, have changed dramatically in recent years. We need to look at the future of our organisation and its place in the Church, as our members age and numbers at events decline, due largely to health and travelling problems. In the light of this, we come to a new theme for the next 12 months, affirming, in the words of the Elizabeth J Smith hymn, that ‘We will face tomorrow in the Spirit’s power’!”

After the service Bishop Kay Goldsworthy spoke on women’s ministry, looking to this theme. She spoke on women as teachers, as the hope of the community and how we should face the future in the Spirit’s power and how God’s faith shines forth and how we need to change NOW in these times of never ending changes.

Lisa Towle, President of Episcopal Church Women in the U.S. brought greetings from her organisation. She spoke on her affiliation with Kanuga (an Indian name) conference centre in the mountains of western North Carolina. Her message to us is to ‘shut up and listen to God’. Pentecost reminds us that we need to be universal and that what unites is more important than what divides us.

Greetings were also relayed from Lucille Henniker, President, Anglican Women’s Fellowship of Southern Africa. Lucille said our theme was very apt and we needed a ‘roll of scotch tape and prayer’ to keep us together. She quoted Joshua 1.9: I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”.

After lunch The Revd Diane Langham, Chaplain of Cessnock Gaol, spoke of her 18 years as priest and chaplain, and of her Aboriginal heritage. She is widely called ‘Mum’ or ‘Auntie Di’, with a clear message that she is loved by the inmates. She told us of the many facets of her job, in and out of the gaol. A wife, mother, grandmother and priest, as well as rearing three of her grandchildren, she is an amazing lady in a very difficult position.

The day concluded with thanks and a blessing from Reverend Langham.