ACW delegates attending the 2016 National Presidents Conference in Langley, B.C. visit Prospect Point in Stanley Park, Vancouver. Submitted photo

Bringing new voices to the Anglican Church Women

The following is the conclusion of a two-part story. Read Part One.

The difficulty of filling some positions in the Anglican Church Women of Canada (ACW) has become increasingly evident in recent years.

In the Diocese of Saskatoon, the ACW made the decision to formally disband at the diocesan level following its spring 2017 conference. For some time, the ACW had been trying to get more women to come forward to be part of its work at the diocesan level.

Elta Fae Marlor was the last serving diocesan president of the ACW in Saskatoon, at the time of the 2017 conference.

“The executive had previously had 12 to 13 people on it,” Marlor said. “It was very full. And then as women got older, couldn’t drive, didn’t use the computer, just didn’t have that kind of energy to put into that kind of work … above their parish level, they just couldn’t do it. And so we couldn’t get new people to come on.”

The problem of filling new position had not come as a surprise in a diocese as widespread as Saskatoon, she added, with women getting older and the ACW “not appealing to younger women … This fact is facing all our ACWs right across the dominion.”

At the last ACW presidents’ conference in Fort Langley, B.C., Marlor had heard of focus groups in the Diocese of New Westminster bringing together women of different ages. Each focus group asked participants what might be keeping them from involvement in the ACW and what they would need from such an organization.

“The message,” Marlor said, “was loud and clear: that younger women now have a different focus in life, and from something that they want to be giving their precious free time to … They’re busy [caring for children], working full-time, and trying to keep a family and a marriage … afloat. And a lot of them are single parents.”

Dale Drozda, a youth leader at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops, and member of the Council of the General Synod, is familiar with ACW as a nationwide organization that had been around for quite some time. She is also aware of the extensive fundraising of the ACW in Kamloops, as well as their helping with upkeep for churches around town. However, Drozda was unaware of any presence of the ACW at St. Paul’s.

She suggested that the ACW might appeal to younger members by raising awareness of the group’s presence and activities, and to be more public and visible about meeting times. She also suggested that the ACW should consider ensuring that their meeting times can accommodate school or work schedules.

“I’m not sure when [meetings] are right now, or how often they occur,” Drozda said.

In their efforts to attract younger women, the ACW has found some encouragement in their success hosting meetings over brunch on Saturday mornings. Such gatherings have attracted younger members who generally have more free time then, while their spouses look after their children.

ACW national president Margaret Warwick noted that the ACW has also spoken with multiple bishops about the possibility of having an affiliated group under the ACW umbrella, working towards similar goals and objectives—but with more focus on “the young working woman that wants to have a more definitive program of worship and developing their spirituality.”

‘A group to be reckoned with’

In the meantime, the ACW continues to be a major supporter of the Council of the North, along with other projects of the church.

Though the ACW was in early years more an apolitical group, Warwick said that in recent years it has become more aware of the need to promote “the involvement of women … women in ministry, the freedom of women in the world.” Individual ACW members have been active at the local level in efforts to eradicate human trafficking, following a request by Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz for the ACW’s help in supporting this important mission of the church.

As the ACW continues to find its voice and refine its identity for the 21st century, Warwick recalled the words of Bishop Michael Ingham before his retirement, when introducing a presentation by the ACW at the diocesan synod for New Westminster.

“Don’t ever kid yourselves,” she remembered the bishop saying. “The ACW is not a group of little old ladies. The ACW is a group to be reckoned with.”

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