One of the great ecumenical movements in Australia is Australian Church Women – an ecumenical fellowship for Christian women which began 55 years ago. SA Unit Secretary Aileen Eldridge shares what it has meant to be a part of this group of women.
How did you get involved?
My story is a little different to most people. I had been a member of Zonta International for close on 40 years. A close friend from Zonta had also been very much involved in Australian Church Women (ACW). She was appointed President of the SA Unit of ACW and asked me if I would be her Secretary. At first I told her I didn’t think I was the right fit for the group. After some time, the position was still not filled. I was at a Zonta Conference in WA, and at a frustrating point in our meeting I took a walk to a Cathedral at the top of the hill. It was such a beautiful place. And as I walked out of that Cathedral, I head a voice tell me that I would go home and tell my friend I would be her Secretary. That was in November 2003, and after serving my term I’ve been elected again every year since.
Although I was not a regular Church goer, all of the women were just so welcoming, so caring, and so assuring.
How and when do you come together?
We have a total of 32 members, most of us are in the top half of our 70s, 80s and 90s. We meet as a unit five times a year at Pilgrim Uniting Church in central Adelaide, and we are always delighted to welcome visitors at our meetings. In the other months between February and December, we hold a business meeting for our State Executive and denominational liaison officers.
Each time we meet we have a time of remembering those who need our prayers and a time of devotions. This role is shared around between the denominations and executive, so everybody gets to have a go.
We often have a guest speaker who shares on a social justice issue we want to know more about. We are also looking forward to hearing from UCA Minister Rev. Vikki Waller, a very skilled quilter who is going to talk about where she gets her inspiration from.
What are some of the things you have learned?
We once had a UCA minister, the late Rev. Lindsay Faulkner, speak about different denominations and styles of worship and why they were different. I think for the first time a large number of us had an understanding of why in our own traditions we worship in a particular way.
It has taught people that when you have a new president appointed, your style of worship will be very different. You become accepting this is the way things are done. Of course there are differences, but we realise we have far more joining us together than we have separating us.
What have you gained by being involved?
I think I have a much stronger faith. I have seen and appreciated for the first time the absolute power of prayer and how it impacts peoples’ lives in different ways. In me and in other people I have seen prayer bring about the resolve to go on.
I also believe you can have a really sound relationship with a person from a different belief system. When I think back to my childhood, everything was done to break up relationships between people of different denominations. That is something that should never have happened. We are all God’s people.
We are so very supportive of one another. Knowing that other people are praying for you has a massive impact. You know you’re not in this alone because I have my prayer partners praying for me. It is a wonderful and supportive group of women.
With the protective measures of COVID-19, ACW are not currently meeting in person. The SA Unit are in the process of setting up a checking system on all members at least once a week. Aileen is collating news, and other “things that make you smile” and sharing them with her members .