.. and when [Goliath] got a good look at David, he was filled with scorn for him because he was just a nice, good-looking boy.
A GOLIATH AMONGST US
When Goliath took a good look at David, he was filled with scorn. Why? Because all he saw was a nice young boy whom the Israelites had sent to make fun of him. "I will give your dead body to the animals and birds for their lunch," he chided David.
David, however, was more than he appeared. All Goliath saw was a young boy. What he missed was the fire within this young person. He couldn't see the man who had rescued lambs from the jaws of bears and killed lions with his bare hands. The giant underestimated the boy and he paid the price. David sliced through his mighty armour with a single well placed stone, felled the great warrior and cut off his head.
Goliath learned the hard way that looks can be deceiving.
There is a David in our churches who works long and hard for the benefit of the Kingdom of God and is often more important than we would expect at first glance. It's actually not an individual. It is a group of people whose contribution to the life and work of our church is invaluable. I am speaking here about the United Church Women (UCW). Our National Church thought that it would be a good idea to take one Sunday this year and reflect upon the work of the UCW. This morning, I would like to do that.
On the surface, the UCW doesn't look like much. It is a group of women who quietly go about their business visiting shut-ins, raising money, preparing meals, baking pies and sewing banners. They, often, are not highly visible but don't let that fool you. Looks can be deceiving because the UCW is one of the backbones of the United Church of Canada. It is one of the pillars that holds up many of our congregations.
Where would we be without the hard work and dedication of these women?
How important is the UCW to the mission of the Church? I would like to take us back 10 years to the time when we first came to this Pastoral Charge to minister among you. I recall vividly my first Sunday leading in worship in Espanola / Webbwood. There was a total of about forty-five people in attendance that week between the two churches. That was about half the size of the little churches that I had left on the Prairies to come here. Virtually all who attended had gray hair - not that there is anything wrong with gray hair. There were only four children in the Sunday School; two of them were mine. I had heard that this Pastoral Charge had had some problems but I really wasn't prepared for what I saw. I, certainly, had expected more people.
I looked at the number of people in the pews and I remembered my contract and, to be frankly honest, the first thought that came to mind was, "How are these people going to afford to pay my salary." I was really worried.
The next day, I phoned the Conference Office and talked to the Personnel Minister. I told him of my concerns and he listened quietly and patiently. After I had finished sharing my burdens and my fears, he asked me one single question, "Do the churches have active UCW's?"
I knew that they did. "Yes," I said.
"Then you have nothing to worry about," he told me. He was right. The Church can survive without a lot of things. We don't need photocopiers and computers (although they make life a whole lot easier). We can train our children in the faith without a Sunday School (although I wouldn't want to). We can sing without a choir (but I'd rather not). We can get by without a secretary (but I wouldn't like it). Congregations have proven over the years that even the clergy is dispensable. But churches that have no active women's group are in serious trouble.
Looks can be deceiving. Who would think that a group of women going about their business would have such an impact? The point is that they do have an impact and they do make a difference.
REMEMBERING THE HISTORY
There have been women's groups in the church for as long as the United Church of Canada has been in existence. Originally, there were two groups. The Woman's Missionary Society (WMS) was oriented towards world mission and Bible study. The Woman's Association (WA) was more concerned with local issues in the congregation and community. When those two groups merged to form the UCW in 1962, it became the largest woman's organization in Canada.