Cel­e­brat­ing a Ta­pes­try of Love

50 years of the United Church Women in Canada

The Compass - - ORTHTE - BY KAREN WELLS TC ME­DIA

Lewis­porte — Over the past 50 years the United Church Women in Canada (UCW) have done much to serve their churches and com­mu­ni­ties.

From Sept. 28-30 over 300 women from across New­found­land and Labrador — in­clud­ing many from the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion re­gion — joined in a cel­e­bra­tion of sis­ter­hood and faith. They as­sem­bled at Camp Em­manuel just out­side Lewis­porte for a week­end of fel­low­ship, work­shops and wor­ship with the theme “Our Ta­pes­try of Love — A Legacy and a Light.”

The 316 par­tic­i­pants were rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the 3,000 mem­bers from churches throughout the prov­ince. A na­tional event to mark the an­niver­sary was held in July in An­caster, On­tario.

The UCW was formed in 1962 by com­bin­ing The Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion (WA) with The Women’s Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety (WMS).

Inez Pen­ney is a mem­ber of the 50th an­niver­sary plan­ning com­mit­tee and was the first and only na­tional pres­i­dent of the UCW from this prov­ince from 2002-04. She is orig­i­nally from Twill­ingate.

Pen­ney said as a struc­tured group of the church, they are in­volved in all as­pects of United Church life, from rais­ing money for church needs to look­ing af­ter spir­i­tual needs.

“We visit the sick and shut-ins, se­niors homes and get in­volved in over­seas mis­sions,” she said. “We do Bi­ble study and church ser­vices in the ab­sence of our min­is­ter.

“We are also a sis­ter­hood — we care for each other. The sis­ter­hood is the big part of it. We are very proud of this or­ga­ni­za­tion – it has been a joy and a bless­ing over the years to be part of that and all of our women feel the same.”

An­niver­sary project

Ac­cord­ing to a UCW web­site, a 50th An­niver­sary project the Na­tional United Church Women chose — through Ex­tra Mea­sures/Part­ners in Mis­sion — was to sup­port the Moro­goro Women’s Train­ing Cen­tre in Tan­za­nia, train­ing women from ru­ral ar­eas to be birth at­ten­dants.

Tan­za­nia has one of the high­est ma­ter­nal in­fant mor­tal­ity rates in the world. The goal of the train­ing is to lower these rates by pro­vid­ing a health­ier, safer en­vi­ron­ment for birthing women. The goal of the UCW was to raise $50,000 for this pur­pose. At the na­tional cel­e­bra­tion a cheque for $158,072 was pre­sented. Since then the funds raised have grown to to­tal $161,722.

The cen­tre also de­liv­ers cour­ses in tai­lor­ing, home eco­nom­ics and fam­ily care, sec­re­tar­ial and com­puter skills, lead­er­ship skills and project man­age­ment. The hope is that cour­ses in nu­tri­tion, emer­gency first aid and CPR will also be added.

“This will sup­port six cour­ses for sure for 25 women to take the course – then they go back to their homes and spread that knowl­edge with oth­ers,” said Ms. Pen­ney, who was im­pressed with the sup­port the UCW mem­ber­ship showed on this ini­tia­tive. “We put the call out to United Church Women and they will re­spond – it’s just part of who we are.”

Pen­ney also noted that in the 50 years that the UCW has been oper­at­ing, they have con­trib­uted $125 mil­lion na­tion­ally to a mis­sion and ser­vice fund.

Mem­ber­ship

Is­abelle Cole of Vic­to­ria is an­other event co-chair who is also fin­ish­ing up her term as East Dis­trict pres­i­dent. She noted that when the UCW was formed 50 years ago there were over 300,000 women listed as mem­bers of the two birthing or­ga­ni­za­tions (WA and WMS). WA did most of the fundrais­ing and looked af­ter the im­me­di­ate needs of the con­grega- tion, while WMS func­tion was more mis­sion­ary-based.

Now, mem­ber­ship na­tion­ally is be­tween 50,000-60,000.

Cole stated: “I think we are chang­ing over the years. We are not only lo­cal; we are more of an outreach or­ga­ni­za­tion. We are try­ing to do both. At one time we were prob­a­bly fo­cused on the lo­cal more than any­thing. Now we are reach­ing out and our Moro­goro project is an ex­am­ple of that.”

Fu­ture

In the next 10, 20 or even 50 years of the UCW, the women agreed there is a strong fu­ture ahead for the or­ga­ni­za­tion, but one that will likely see changes.

Cole said they could only imag­ine what those changes will be.

“Our whole church is chang­ing, so we will change along with our church, but we will still be there to serve,” she said.

The mes­sage Pen­ney shared as she trav­elled across Canada dur­ing her term as na­tional UCW pres­i­dent is for lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions to not dis­band.

“Even if they only come to­gether for a cup of tea and a prayer, at least they are still to­gether.”

ed­i­tor@pi­lotnl.ca

Some of the over 300 women gath­ered for the cel­e­bra­tion join in song.

A sam­ple of some of the ban­ners each UCW group cre­ated for the an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion.

Karen Wells pho­tos

Three of the ladies in­volved with plan­ning the 50th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions of the UCW were (from left) Inez Pen­ney, Judy Sparkes and Is­abelle Cole.

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