2014 was a special year of celebration for the World Federation of Methodist & Uniting Church Women Worldwide, marking the organisation’s 75th Anniversary. It was on 26th October 1939 that 27 Methodist women from across the world signed the original Charter of Assent at Pasadena in California. Some 16 years had passed since the young Korean student, Helen Kim first shared her vision of a world sisterhood of Methodist women working together for peace and mutual encouragement. They chose the motto ‘To know Christ and make him Known’, and the tree of life from Rev. 22:2 was adopted as the official emblem. It’s branches stretch upwards and outward, symbols of our thought and action reaching up to God and out to our neighbours. Bearing fruit in season, its leaves are for the healing of the nations.
Today the organisation has grown to over three million members in 71 countries who have been praying and supporting each other in their struggles for healing, empowerment and justice. To celebrate the ‘75 years of healing leaves’, four special editions of the quarterly magazine ‘Tree of Life’ have been published and can be downloaded from our ‘Resources’.
Methodist women in Ireland wanted to mark the date so our Unit held, a Celebration Retreat Day on Saturday 25th October, at Gracehill Moravian Church in Co Antrim. We introduced the day with a short reflection on Ps 1, looking at the need for a spiritually healthy root system. Then we considered ‘Where we have come from’, the foundation and growth of the organisation, noting significant milestones. The affiliation with the World Methodist Council in 1954 and the granting of NGO status with the United Nations later in 1983 both enabled the voice of women to be heard globally, and allowed the sisterhood to have greater insight and influence to promote their cause.
We then recalled the considerable work of the movement in Ireland and thanked God for the efforts of many faithful women including, Mrs Albert Holland and Mrs Norman Robb who signed the new constitution on our behalf in 1954. Some of our senior friends were applauded particularly for their outstanding commitment, Dr Edith Loan, a former World Treasurer and World President has been serving for near 45 years and Pam Klimke, former Tree of Life editor and World Archivist, 30 years.
Edith entertained us with memories of the early years when Ireland hosted the 5th World Assembly at St Patrick College in Dublin in 1976 and later the Area Seminar in 1993
Former Area President, Sheelagh Wonnacott shared very movingly of how MDG fundraising projects had borne fruit and brought healing through ‘Improved Maternal Health’ and ‘Reduce Infant Mortality’ in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Malawi and Togo.
Then an outline of current work and projects highlighted, ‘Where we are now’. Our focus is on MDG 2 and 3, the achievement of primary education and empowerment of women. It was reported that £7500 had been sent to Open Schools Worldwide in S Africa to purchase 250 Audibibles and we are now fundraising for ‘Wings of Hope’, a project to provide water storage and sanitation to the homes of women working in Kudoya, a tea plantation in Sri Lanka.
Whilst trying to address challenging environmental and social issues eg migration and trafficking, we recognised the need to find new and relevant ways of working, remembering the theme for this quinquennium ‘Never give up’, Christ is our Hope..
After lunch we looked towards the future, ‘Where we are going’. Having been reminded that the leaves on the tree of life in Rev 22: 1-2 are for the healing of the nations we were encouraged to be engaged not only in action but also in prayer for future direction in bringing hope to the nations. Armed with a list of prayer points and paper ‘leaves’, we set off on a prayer walk around the beautiful Moravian village. On return the ‘leaves’ were placed on a ‘Tree’ while we joined together in the Declaration of Commitment and the WF prayer.
The day concluded with singing, ‘Brother Sister let me serve you’ after which a celebration cake was cut by Dr Edith and very much enjoyed by all.