How the Women’s Work All Began

(Note: I am not sure of the origin of this history, but it has been in my church’s WOC handbook and I found it interesting. Laura Navarro)

Early in the history of the ARP church, little groups of women had come together for mission service.  In 1818, Old Steele Creek Church near Charlotte, NC had such a group.  Others also existed in this area. Late in the turbulent years of Reconstruction, other women organized for the same purpose.  In a day of small things, offerings came from such things as the sale of the Sabbath eggs and other products of the farm household.  Never to be underestimated is the spiritual power generated by the single-minded devotion and strong faith of these women.

In 1898, Synod formally recognized the woman’s work by appointing a general superintendent and including her reports in the Minutes of Synod, but the local organizations continued to exist independently of each other. In 1907, cooperation for common goals became possible for the women of Second Presbytery.  At Louisville, Georgia a group met and formed the Second Presbyterial Union.  Soon presbyterials were formed in all of the presbyteries.

In 1915, these presbyterial unions joined together in the Woman’s Synodical Missionary Union.  Later, in 1949, the name was changed to the Woman’s Synodical Union (WSU) to reflect broader participation in all phases of the work of the denomination.

Second Presbyterial had made another vital contribution with the publication of the “Monthly Bulletin”.  First for communicating within the Presbyterial, it became the official organ of WSU in 1918 and continued to be published until 1975, first under the name “Journal of Missions” and later as the “ARP Synodical Journal”.  WSU combined their publication with the church magazine, “The ARP”, when it became a monthly publication of the Synod.

The heart of the woman’s work has always been to know Christ and to make Him known.  It is not surprising that the cause dearest to the women has always been foreign missions.  Over half of our total giving goes to support educational, evangelistic, and medical work primarily in Pakistan and Mexico as well as in other areas.  A special Jubilee Birthday Offering (begun in 1925 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our first foreign missionary) provides full salaries for two women missionaries.

An early home mission project of the WSU involved support of Hillcrest School in Appalachia and the sale of used clothing in the area.  With improvements in the economy and in the schools, this project was phased out. Planting of new churches has been aided with a “Sites Fund” designated for the purchase of property for mission churches. From 1920 to 1960, WSU provided the program of Christian Education for the children of the church.  Since 1960, the Youth Department has assisted the program, which is directed by Synod’s Board of Christian Education.

A unique ministry developed in recent years is Camp Joy for campers with special needs.  Three sessions are held at Bonclarken each summer and have brought great blessings to all involved.  For many years Dunlap Orphanage received loyal support from the women.  After it was closed in 1978, the Family Living Department has encouraged aid to Bethany Christian Services and other crisis pregnancy centers as well as other projects to strengthen the family.

As the arm of the denomination in higher education, Erskine College and Seminary have received loyal support from the women.

Our denomination has been blessed with Bonclarken, the beautiful assembly grounds at Flat Rock, NC. Focal points for the women at Bonclarken are the Synodical Hall, built in the 1960’s by WSU, and the Bonclarken Gift Shop.  Needlework, crafts, and food items from all over the denomination are donated to the Gift Shop.  The proceeds from the sale go to Bonclarken.

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