A Quiet Day has been organised by MU, to which all are welcome, at St Mary’s Anglican Church, 68 Church Street, Maitland, on Wednesday, 18th October. It will commence at 9.30am and finish at 12.30m.
Conductor will be Fr Gary Harman, the MU Diocesan Chaplain. The theme is from Jn 6:35, ‘Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life’.
People from the Central Coast Deanery gathered at Holy Family Church, Wyoming.
The Ahli Arab Hospital is a haven of peace in the middle of Gaza, one of the world’s most troubled places. A Palestinian territory (41km long x 12km at its widest), with a population of 1.85 million, it has only one point of access, at its northern tip joining Israel. The political status of Gaza affects all aspects of life because of restrictions on the movement of materials and people in and out. Electricity, medicines, food, water, fuel, and personnel are all restricted to some extent. Despite this the hospital provides some of the finest medical care available in the region.
Apart from general medicine, surgery, community services and child nutrition programs, it runs, completely free of charge, a program for the early detection of breast cancer among women above 40 years of age. It is this program which Anglican Women will help support through their ‘Thank You Boxes’ for coins over the next 12 months.
The incidence of cancer, and especially breast cancer, is much higher in Gaza than in other areas. Its diagnosis is seen as a death sentence by the wider public, and the hospital is working to overcome this perception. The hospital performs about 1,000 mammograms a year, and staff work with community groups to raise awareness about breast cancer and to teach self-examination techniques. If a lump is found, a biopsy is done. If malignant, then surgery – a complete mastectomy – follows, and if medication is available, a course of chemotherapy. Instead of despair, there is now hope.
The Ahli Arab Hospital’s mission is “to glorify God and bear witness to His love as manifested in the life of Jesus Christ. It serves all who seek treatment, without prejudice to any religious or ethnic community and irrespective of social class, gender and political affiliation.”
Nearly all the staff and patients are Muslims, though the Director, Suhaila Tarazi, is a Palestinian Christian. Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury presented Suhaila with The Langton Award for Community Service: “For outstanding service to the community in one of the poorest and most neglected corners of the world, overseeing with calm grace, the provision of vital medical services…” Despite having dual citizenship with a US passport, she chooses to remain living in Gaza to serve her fellow Palestinians, as she has for 40 years.
Anglican Overseas Aid is an overseas relief and development agency of the Anglican Church of Australia. They work with Anglican and like-minded agencies to create and strengthen partnerships in developing countries to overcome poverty, injustice and disaster.
Australia has its first female Anglican archbishop with Kay Goldsworthy to lead the church in WA.
She was a guest speaker at the recent Anglican Women Australia Conference held in Newcastle. We congratulate her on this next stage of her ministry and wish her all the best.
The Archbishop-elect replaces Roger Herft, who stood down from the top job after admitting he let down survivors of child sexual abuse during Royal Commission hearings last year.
Archbishop-elect Goldsworthy is currently Bishop of Gippsland in Victoria, and was previously an Assistant Bishop of Perth.
She was among the first women in Australia to be ordained as a priest and the first woman to be consecrated as a bishop.
Raised in Melbourne, Archbishop-elect Goldsworthy is married and has twin adult sons.
She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia this year for her service to religion through the Anglican Church. She is a former chaplain of Perth girls’ school Perth College.
(from ‘The West Australian’)
Anglican Women has again organised the Silent retreats for women which are held each year in Lent.
The venue for February 2018 will be the Catalina Conference Centre at Rathmines, situated on the western shores of beautiful Lake Macquarie, between Toronto and Morisset. A spacious, very comfortable, single-level facility, it is surrounded by parks and walkways. A beautiful and peaceful place ‘to be still with God’ as we explore the theme, ‘We will face tomorrow in the Spirit’s power’
Dates & Cost: (1) Weekend from the Friday 16th to Sunday 18th February 2018. 2) Midweek (if we get sufficient numbers) Tuesday 20th to Thursday 22nd February. Cost for the full retreat will be $280. Accommodation is in single rooms, though people can share if desired. Deadline for bookings is no later than 1st February. Early bird discount of $20 for bookings for full conference before 16 January!
There is also the option of attending for the day (9am to 5pm) on either the Saturday or the Wednesday – cost $55 includes morning & afternoon teas and lunch. Arrival for booking in is from 4pm (with a welcome at 6pm and dinner at 6.30pm). The retreats finish at 3pm on the last day.
Retreat Conductor – Fr Mel
Fr Melbourne Nelson (Mel as he is generally known in our Diocese), grew up in Fiji and New Zealand and studied for the ministry in St John’s College, Auckland. He was ordained a deacon in 1967 and a priest in 1968 in the Diocese of Bathurst for ministry in the Diocese of Polynesia, which he took up in 1969 following his marriage to Vivienne.
Mel served in Polynesia from 1969 to 1976 before coming to Newcastle with his family where he was appointed to the Parish of Bulahdelah-Tea Gardens. In 1981 Mel, having been invited to be Dean of Suva Cathedral, returned to Polynesia for 3 years.
Since then, Mel has served in the parishes of Nelson Bay and Kincumber and was Anglican Chaplain to John Hunter Hospital from 1997 to 2003 before entering retirement after a 3 month chaplaincy at the Sunderland Royal Hospital in the UK. Mel and Vivienne (who is a renowned artist) live in Mayfield and have three married children and five grandchildren.
Anglican Women’s Sunday is held on the last Sunday in July each year. This year it will fall on Sunday 30th July.
Its purpose is to celebrate ALL Anglican women across the Diocese and the good work they do on behalf of your parish, the community and the organisations to which they may belong. Our theme for the next 12 months is “We will face tomorrow in the Spirit’s power” (from the Elizabeth J Smith hymn, ‘God gives us a future’).
You might like to include some information about us in your pew sheet and include in your service on 30th July the Anglican Women’s prayer:
Eternal God, the light of the minds that know you,
the life of the souls that love you,
and the strength of the hearts that serve you,
help us so to know you that we may truly love you,
so to love you that we may fully serve you,
for to serve you is perfect freedom:
through Christ our Lord. Amen
Anglican Women Thank You Box giving:
It is also an opportunity to highlight our ‘Thank You Box’ Project, where Anglican women donate a coin to their ‘Thank You Box’ every time they wish to thank God for something in their lives. This money is collected at our annual June Service and the September Spring Celebration events and donated to our nominated Thank You Box project for the year. Any container can be used — or there is a template on our web site, anglicanwomennewcastle.org.au
This year Anglican Women was able to send $6,00.00 to Alzheimer’s Australia (NSW), who fund, support and research an illness which touches so many lives, for the 2015/2016 Thank You Box project. In the current 2016/17 year, we are raising funds for Kairos Outside for Women (Hunter). This is a programme for the family of those in prison, who often ‘do time’ as well, even though they did not commit the crime. At Kairos Outside weekends, guests find a safe environment where people are willing to listen. It offers a listening ear without condemnation, as they seek to love and listen non-judgmentally. KOW offers hope and on-going support.
September Spring Celebrations:
The first week of September always sees the Spring Celebrations organised by Anglican Women in the various Deaneries of the Diocese of Newcastle for everyone who would like to come. This year the guest speakers will be from Anglican Overseas Aid. They will be the recipients of the next Thank You Box collection.
Venue/ dates:- Monday 4/9/2016: Manning Deanery – Tuncurry; Tuesday 5th: Combined Deaneries of Newcastle & Lake Macquarie – St Thomas’, Cardiff; Wednesday. 6th: Upper Hunter – Merriwa; Thursday 7th: Lower Hunter (Maitland & Paterson) Branxton; Friday 8th: Central Coast – Wyoming.
I hope your Anglican Women Sunday service will provide an opportunity for you to honour the women in your parish and their dedication to doing God’s work.
It has just been announced that:
The Revd Canon Katherine Bowyer, Rector of the Parish of Cardiff since 2013 and Director of Formation, is to be the next Dean of Newcastle! She is the first woman to take this role and also the first to be locally born. Katherine starts in November.
Dean Stephen Williams is retiring (finishes work in August and officially off in November). He has been Dean since 2013, having previously been rector of Merewether 2002-13.
Bishop Kay Goldsworthy awarded an AO in the Queen’s Birthday awards:
Kay Maree GOLDSWORTHY, VIC “For distinguished service to religion through the Anglican Church of Australia, as a pioneer and role model for women, to church administration, and to pastoral care and equality.”
The Venerable Canon Sonia Roulston preached at the Annual Anglican Women’s Service held at Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle on 6th June 2017. Women from around the Diocese of Newcastle, as well as many from further afield, attended. This service was part of the Anglican Women Australia Provincial Conference being held at Club Macquarie, Argenton, for which Sonia was the Chaplain.
Today we are celebrating the ministry of women – giving thanks for the ministry that has been, and looking to the future.
We celebrate the ministry of women today in a particular context in our Diocese – for we are celebrating 30 years of the ordained ministry of women this year. In fact we (women) think it is such an important celebration, we’ve celebrated it twice! And now we are 30 and we’re all grown up … aren’t we. At the very least 30 years is two generations of people. Women in ministry at every level is part of life as we know it.
As I was doing some pre-reading for out anniversary services I came across the following history:
- Girls’ Friendly Society groups in the diocese began forming in the mid-1880s. By 1888 there were enough groups to form a Diocesan Council. GFS in those days was particularly concerned with providing a place for young women, especially in an age when they were much more vulnerable – a real issue in those days. For example, there is a parishioner at Morpeth whose (perhaps) great grandmother arrived on a boat in the mid 1800s – aged 17 – her parents had died en route, and so concerned were they for her safety that she was not allowed off the boat without a husband… one was quickly found! It’s an extraordinary story to our ears! It is in a similar context that GFS has its origins.
- Enquiries about Mothers’ Union began in 1907 when the Mrs Stretch, wife of the then Bishop, called together a group of interested women to discuss to discuss bringing Mothers’ Union to Newcastle. This was in response to a request from the English body to promote the spread of Mothers’ Union ‘throughout the Empire’. Mrs Stretch was, however, was not a well lady, and so it was another 10 years before the first group gathered.That group was in the Cathedral Parish and they are celebrating their centenary this year.
- Anglican Women is a relative newcomer to the scene, forming in 1960, as an umbrella for ALL the women of our church.
- Through the 1950s and 60s women of our diocese took up the opportunities for training at St Christopher’s College or Church Army and became parish workers. These were a dedicated group of women lovingly remembered wherever they served. Deaconess House was not part of the scene here, though it had provided similar opportunities in other dioceses.
- I was a bit startled as I scanned the history to find that women only sat on Synod in this Diocese as recently as 1978! I was startled because I was in High School by then … and at Maitland Girls’ they were teaching us that the world was open for women! Perhaps Synods move more slowly? Anyway, in 1978, the bishop said in his opening address to the Synod:
“May I extend a special welcome to those 12 ladies who have been elected to Synod for the first time and say without any degree of patronage that we look forward to enjoying your company and the contribution that you will make. Having you with us makes the 39th Synod a very historical and significant one”.
You might be interested to know that at our most recent Synod slightly more than half the house of laity were women!
- To finish this reflection on where we have come from, we celebrated the ordination of women to the diaconate in the Australian Church in 1986, and here in 1987; women were first ordained priests in 1992, and it is great to welcome Bishop Kay Goldsworthy here today, who was consecrated a Bishop in 2008.
There is much to give thanks for as we celebrate today. And we give thanks not only for these 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 and choristers, women who have cleaned our churches, arranged the flowers, washed linen, worked in catering guilds and op shops, typed newsletters, welcomed people to church, served morning tea, visiting the elderly, and more recently joined those teams serving at the altar. And I could go on.
We celebrate today the ministries we share in our church. 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.
As we think about these women, I remember a friend of mine, a clergy daughter, once telling me that her faith didn’t come from her father – it was his job … but through the old ladies of his church. To quote her, “They had something special and I wanted it!”
What our readings today remind us is that women have ALWAYS taken their place in church life, and served as they could.
In his letter to the Romans, the latest of Paul’s letters that we have, he greets the many leaders of the church in his day. We have heard part of that list this morning. In the whole list Paul names 28 church leaders, 10 of whom are women. The women he named are:
- Phoebe – a deacon whom Paul praises highly;
- Prisca (or Priscilla) with her husband Aquila, whom Paul calls ‘fellow workers’. Significantly Paul names Prisca first, indicating that it is her faith and leadership that is the more significant;
- The list goes on to include Mary (we don’t know which Mary), Tryphena & her sister Tryphosa, Persis, the mother of Rufus (probably Mrs Simon of Cyrene), Julia, and Nereus’ sister…
- And then there are Andronicus and Junia. Poor Junia suffered the fate of having her name turned into a man’s name for generations – until the most recent translations. How did this happen? Most scholars agree that though Paul was evidently quite happy to work alongside Junia and acknowledge her gifts, Bible translators were not!
Everett Harrison, reflecting on this list, wrote:
Prominent in this list are women. They occupied various stages of life – a wife, a single woman, and a mother – and all are represented as performing a valuable service for the Lord. Evidently Paul esteemed them highly for their work’s sake.
The Gospels also contain a number of significant women. One of the more prominent women is Mary Magdalene – the first witness of the resurrection. In John’s Gospel we hear of Mary going to the tomb on that first morning, filled with grief, we heard how in her grief she was unable to recognise Jesus: “They have taken my Lord away and I do not know where they have laid him”, and we have heard of her recognition of the risen Jesus when he calls her name – Rabbouni! Jesus then sends Mary to tell the others that he is risen.
Extraordinarily, in that culture, the first witness to the resurrection is a woman … and not a perfect woman. It is Mary Magdalene whom Jesus sends first with this precious news. For this reason Mary is sometimes referred to as the “Apostle to the Apostles”.
Michael Jensen writes of her:
This woman, with her history of being afflicted and tormented, is the one through whom the rest of the Christian church gazes on the risen Lord. It is through those eyes, blurred somewhat with tears, that we see Jesus alive. It is through her hands that we touch his walking feet, and feel the warmth of his living flesh.
She is our first, surprising witness. She’s unlikely as a witness, but being unlikely makes her reliable. … You’d think, if the story were made up, that the presence of Mary Magdalene would be eclipsed: that her honour of being the first at the tomb, and the first to see Jesus would be taken away from her by the embarrassed men, who thought that they should be the heroes in this story. But, like her, with her, we gaze upon the extraordinary truth: that Jesus, the one who was crucified, is now risen from the dead.
Today as we gather our theme is Thanksgiving for the Ministry of Women. And we have reflected on that ministry as it has shaped us today. Not only in our context, but also through Scripture. We have heard how Paul gathered men and women of all stages of life around him to share in leadership, work and life of the early church. And we’ve heard of Jesus calling Mary Magdalene to go and tell the good news.
Like her (and all those before us) we too are called and sent – called to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, and sent to share in word and deed the good news we have received.
Our full theme is: “Thanks giving for the Ministry of Women: Facing tomorrow in the Spirit’s power”. And that is exactly how we shall go as we go forward … sent into our future … whatever that is … trusting in the Spirit’s power with us … and likewise with the many women … and men … who will follow us.
As we do let us remember to be faithful in all we do, to trust God, and to offer ourselves willing in response to God’s call in the ways that we can today … just as so many of our forebears have done … for it is true: we are sent in the Spirit’s power.
AWA Conference: Anglican women in a time of change ‑ looking to the future
It was a time of great fellowship, worship and learning as women from various parts of NSW, plus others from further afield, including the US and South Africa, attended the Provincial Anglican Women Australia (AWA) Conference, hosted by AW Newcastle, from 5-8th June 2017 at Club Macquarie, Argenton. Their theme was ‘Thanksgiving for the Ministry of Women’.
Following the annual Anglican Women’s Service at the Cathedral on Tuesday, which was attended by 200 people who heard from Bishop Kay Goldsworthy of Gippsland and The Revd Di Langham, Chaplain at Cessnock Gaol, conference members visited the Mission to Seafarers at Wickham. Chaplain Peter Middleton spoke about the vital ministry of MTS to the thousands of seafarers who visit Newcastle, and showed them the excellent facilities provided.
Wednesday saw 43 ‘local’ women join with the 32 full time members for the day, meeting and listening to many amazing women who serve God in many ways, who challenged us to look at where we are and where we are going.
Lisa Towle, President of Episcopal Church Women in the US, spoke of dealing with change in society and the Church, for ‘change is hard…but it cannot be stopped’. She reminded us that ‘our words are words, but our actions speak louder’. Quoting from the book, ‘Radical Welcome’, by Stephanie Spellers, which speaks of the ‘fundamental Christian work of welcome and hospitality, of patterns of inclusion and exclusion, about transformational growth – not just the budget’, we were challenged to consider ‘what new thing is God calling us to?’
Lucille Henniker, President of the Anglican Women’s Fellowship of Southern Africa, said that AWF was formed in 1966 because at that time Mothers’ Union only catered for married women and divorcees and single mothers could not belong – so AWF was born to cater for them.
AWF in all dioceses is encouraged to choose a sustainable outreach project, which must be relevant to the aims of the AWF. ‘We are faced with various society ills such as poverty, abuse against women and children,unemployment and lack of education etc.’ We too have a major problem in involving younger women.
A group of vibrant women representing MOW (Movement for the Ordination of Women) shared their experience of women’s ministry and the ongoing struggle to achieve ordination to the priesthood of women in all the Anglican Dioceses across Australia. Still the Dioceses of Sydney, Armidale, North-West Australia and The Murray will only ordain to the Diaconate. This means that those women who are to follow their vocation to the priesthood, must leave their local communities, family and friends.
We heard Angela Peverell, Elaine Lindsay, Jeannette McHugh, Jan Malpas and Lu Piper speak about the history of women’s ministry from New Testament times, to the Early Church, and then on to the more recent milestones of the battle for women’s ordination, to the current situation now in the Anglican Church of Australia.
Although much has been accomplished, there remains much to be done, especially in the Diocese of Sydney where the doctrine of male headship is strong and spreading. However, ‘we continue to hope…. keep on walking forward and never look back!’
Jan Malpas, from the Diocese of The Murray, spoke of her ministry, which has taken place locally in her parish and community, as well as on a diocesan level, nationally and internationally, through MU, the World Council of Churches, Lifeline, Suicide Prevention, MOW etc – often, she said, ‘thrown in at the deep end!’ These ministries saw her travelling far from their farm in SA – throughout Australia and overseas.
Now in her 80s, Jan said, ‘there is no retirement age for us, for a woman’s work is never done’. If any institution, including the Church, ‘does not change as it grows, it risks becoming irrelevant. With maturity comes change, though care is needed in how this is done’. While God never changes, our perception of him may, leading to a bigger, better picture.
The diminutive but indomitable Revd Lu Piper, currently undertaking a locum at Belmont Nth/Redhead, shared in word and picture some of her amazing ministry over many years in the islands off the eastern tip of PNG. (At other times she has also worked in the Northern Territory, and in the Dioceses of Sydney and Newcastle.)
She went, when young, with ‘Australian Volunteers Abroad’ to serve as a teacher in PNG for one year – this turned into 20 years over a nearly 50 year period. For 9 years from 2004 she was Project Officer for the United Church – this role included the extension and development of a Nursing School which now sees 25 students graduating each year, as well as overseeing the maintenance of Health Centres and Aid Posts around the islands.
Last year Lu returned to oversee the building of a chapel on the small island of Ubuya. Previously a leprosy hospital, the place is now a vocational school. Some work had already been undertaken – a carpentry workshop, chaplain’s and other staff houses, new dormitories – and now finally the chapel was to be built by the students themselves with the help of five men from Fergusson Island. The challenges were many, but Lu’s mantra was, ‘We will do this together!’ and ‘You never give up!’ Everything from cement and sand to water tanks, had to be brought in by dinghies and small boats, and then carried up the hill.
On Thursday the AGM of AWA was held, with reports from the three dioceses where AWA is still active – Bathurst, Riverina and Newcastle, with apologies from Canberra & Goulburn. Riverina offered to host the next AWA conference, in 2019, at Griffiths, with Judy Nolan and Lee Blacker-Noble commissioned by Conference Chaplain, the Ven. Sonia Roulston. Sonia had led Morning and Evening Prayers throughout the conference and was the preacher at the Cathedral Conference.
The evenings provided time for fellowship over dinner, and after dinner entertainment with bush poet, Bob Bush of Tea Gardens on Monday, following an interesting talk by Bishop Kay Goldsworthy or her years of ministry and path to ordination as deacon, priest and bishop. On Tuesday we were entertained by the cheerful Sing Australia Choir from Belmont/ Wallsend.
On Wednesday evening, we heard of a very different way in which a most inspiring woman is serving God, as Sergeant Debra Rowe shared fascinating stories, some humorous, some tragic, of her time in of the NSW Police Force.
She went on to share some of her faith journey – of how God has worked in her life, and how he leads and inspires her, as she looks ahead to her ‘retirement’. It was this story that moved many of us to tears, and made a fitting conclusion to a very special conference.
Debra brought us back to basics, to the reason we do what we do – for the greatest of gifts is love, and all of what we do is nothing without that, as we open ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the changes which lie ahead for us.
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.
[Photos – with thanks to Grant Killen]
On the 3rd June 2017, a special Service was held at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, to mark the 30th anniversary of women in the Diocese of Newcastle. It also sought to place this in the context of the wider ministry of women, both lay and ordained, over a much longer period.
Celebrant was The Revd Audrey Fuller, now retired, but whose ministry goes back very many years to 1960 when she trained at St Christopher’s in Melbourne to be a parish worker. She was made deacon in 1988 and ordained priest in 1992, serving in many areas.
Preacher was lay woman Mrs Jenny Forester, who has been very active in many ways since her teenage years. She is married to Archdeacon Les Forester.
Sermon by Jennifer Forester at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle on June 3rd 2017, on the occasion of the service to give thanks for the ministry of ALL women.
Are you surprised, to see, an ordinary layperson, standing here today? Yes…no?
Isn’t it encouraging to see how far we have come in our vision for women’s ministry?
We’re here today, to honour the years of faithful service, of all the women in our diocese. Both ordained and laity. Our mothers, and grandmothers in the faith of Jesus. Women who worked tirelessly, and often without any recognition.
The ordination of women, 30 years ago, happened because there were many women, who helped prepare the way. Women’s ordination was the next step in a long history, of faith-filled women’s ministry.
We honour those ordained since 1987. And before that, the St Christopher’s parish workers, Sunday school teachers and GFS leaders, Mothers’ Union and all our many women’s groups, women who were the first admitted to parish council and synod. This happened in my life time. Cooks, cleaners, flower arrangers and clergy wives. So we celebrate all the work done in the past. And today we also seek the leading of the Holy Spirit, to build our future.
Tomorrow is Pentecost. Tomorrow we will pray, ‘come holy spirit’. As we pause to listen to the Spirit of God, what can we learn from the example of our women?
I suggest that there are four qualities that can help us build our future with God:
- They grasped opportunities
- They persisted
- They passed on the baton of faith
- They showed, true kindness, that is, the desire for the best outcome, for others.
. . .Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. To take any opportunity, that comes to you, and, to do the best you can with it.
Today’s reading from Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything. A time to be silent and a time to speak. For women to have equal access to ministry opportunities it has been necessary to find our voice and use it, wisely and respectfully. And still today, we need to find our voice and use it, when we see injustice, when we see bullying behaviour. To speak out when we see the misuse of power. And we also need to speak up in sharing our vision of God’s leading.
Tomorrow is Pentecost. The day when we call on the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into us as individuals, and together as the Church. Maybe here today the Holy Spirit is already speaking. I wonder what he is saying?
Perhaps that this is the time to grasp an opportunity? To be brave? To try something new? As the scriptures tell us, God has not given us a spirit of cowardice or timidity, but a Spirit of power and of love and of self-control.
Quality number two, as seen in the examples of our women of faith. Persistence.
In today’s gospel, the Canaanite woman did not give up, until she achieved her goal of blessing from Jesus. She persisted.
Back when I was 16, I wanted to tell the whole world about the love of Jesus. His abiding presence had transformed my life. I needed to put faith into action. So, one Sunday at the church door handshake, I asked my Rector, could I train to be a server?
I made his day! He almost doubled-up laughing, and waved me off, with a gasped “Don’t be ridiculous, girls can’t be servers!” So I gave up.
We need to be careful, don’t we, about the messages we send to our young women. Spoken and unspoken.
But this story does have a happy ending. I persisted in another direction. I wormed my way into the youth group band! Leading music was a much more acceptable place for girls. I’m still leading music in worship. So that worked out well. And. . .I married the bass player!
So then, let us, search for our way to serve God. Don’t be put off by others. Persist. If one avenue is blocked to you, then find another way. I don’t mean that we should push on regardless, believing that we are always right. I don’t mean to treat others with disrespect, if they don’t agree with us. I do mean, having the Spirit-given humility to persist in seeking our calling. We can persevere, because we know the Spirit is at work, in human hearts and minds. If we listen, to his leading, we can find a way to co-operate in that work.
The Canaanite woman was a woman desperate for healing and blessing from God. She wasn’t put off by the opposition of the disciples. She wasn’t afraid to step outside the boundaries of expected behaviour. She had her eyes fixed on Jesus, and she didn’t give up, until she reached her goal. And Jesus publicly praised her for her great faith.
We are celebrating here today, because of the ministry of women, who did not give up.
Women like Audrey Fuller and others who found a path of ministry. They were following God’s leading, many years, before we ever thought about women’s ordination. We give thanks today, for the ministry of indigenous Christian women like Ella Simon. Ella was a Biripi woman from Taree. Her grandmother got her reading the Bible. In the 1960s Ella improved living conditions in Purfleet. She supplied stoves for cooking, and introduced electricity. Ella did not give up. Like the Cannanite woman, she persisted, despite many obstacles.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in the future, others could say of us, ‘she persisted’? Do we feel today, that God is calling us to persist with something?
So then, courage to grasp the opportunity, and persistence to see it through.
Quality number 3: passing on the baton. The letter to the Hebrews talks about running, with perseverance, the race that is set before us. Have you ever thought that, often the race is a relay race? We need to run our part, and then pass the baton on, to the next runner.
We have just experienced a brilliant baton pass, in the parish of Nelson Bay. Two 80 year old ladies gave away their church! Eve and Maureen are their names.
Back in the 1950s, Eve and Maureen and their husbands, and friends were worshipping with the Anglicans. But they had a vision for building their own Lutheran church in Anna Bay. They built it with their own hands. Worship there was the focus of their life together. Then, over the years, church members grew old and died, and the church building was no longer used for worship anymore.
Eve and Maureen were the only two left. Last year, they felt called to walk a new way. In their prayers, they felt that God was calling them, to give away their church building! They handed over the keys, to the local Anglicans. Their vision was, to grow a new congregation! Now that’s a strong baton pass! And more! The new church plant is being lead by young people! 17 and 18 year olds. With guitars!
Of course, there is appropriate adult supervision. But it’s the kids who are doing the work. It’s not the way you or I might do it. . . but, that’s a good thing!
And Eve is there every week, worshipping with the young ones. Blessing the young people with her support and encouragement. Actually, Eve doesn’t even think she is doing anything of note. She told me that she, is the one getting all the blessings.
This story brings home to me, how much older people have a tremendous power, over present and future generations. My mothers and sisters in the faith, we have a choice. We can criticise and prevent, or we can open our hands and bless.
‘A time to keep and a time to let go.’
May we remember that our beloved church, and our work of ministry, is not our own possession, but held in trust by us, to pass on.
Tomorrow is Pentecost. What is the Spirit saying to us today, about passing on the baton, about persistence and about courage?
Which brings us to the 4th, and final point. It’s about kindness and openness. Recently, I’ve been to two commissionings of new clergy into parishes. We were reminded, on both occasions, that part of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Not that awful Anglican niceness, but a true kindness that desires the best for the other person. I don’t know about you, but in these difficult times, change can make me anxious and scratchy! Kindness is not always my first response! Just ask the bass player!
In our Colossians reading today, we are urged, as God’s chosen people, to clothe ourselves with compassion and kindness. To bear with one another. To forgive as the Lord forgives us. Some forbearance and kindness in our speech and action, goes a long way in growing a church.
Tomorrow is Pentecost. Tomorrow we will say ‘Come Holy Spirit. Come, act within us, change us to be more like Jesus, lead us on together, to share the love of God in the world around us.’
As we celebrate women’s ministry today, how might we act on these four qualities that faith- filled women have shown us? May we look to the Spirit to help us bravely grasp an opportunity? and to follow with persistence? Can we look to the Spirit for passing on the baton of faith?
And may we open ourselves, for the Spirit to grow in us, true kindness?
What is the Spirit calling you to, today?
(A month of celebrations: This service followed on from a celebration on 10th May, marking the first ordinations of women in this diocese – Pam Sauber and Julia Perry. A few days later was the Annual Anglican Women’s Service, which this year was part of the Anglican Women Australia Provincial Conference – see later article on this site.)