40 years since the amalgamation of Derryvullen South and Garvary MU Branches
Celebrating 40 Years together
A service of Holy Communion to commemorate 40 years since the amalgamation of Derryvullen South and Garvary MU Branches, diocese of Clogher was held on 22nd September 2008

In September1968, the MU branches of Derryvullen South and Garvary were amalgamated. This followed the grouping of the previously separate parishes. Following the sudden death of the Rev G A Buller of Garvary Parish, Rev B W V Hastie was appointed incumbent of Garvary and Derryvullen South. The Enrolling Member at the time was Mrs Peggy Hastie .

The branches maintained separate secretaries and treasurers and this has continued over the years. The present Garvary secretary is Mavis Rolston and treasurer Freda Beacom and in Derryvullen, Kathleen Kettyles secretary and Betty Little treasurer. The Branch Leader is Valerie Stewart.

On Monday 22 September 2008 there was a special Service in Derryvullen South to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Amalgamation. The Bishop, Rt Rev Michael Jackson, presided at the Holy Communion, assisted by the Rector (and MU Diocesan Chaplain) Rev Canon John Stewart. Three members, who had been enrolled in 1967 and 1968 read the Lessons. Mrs Joan Nixon, Mrs Christina Wilson and Mrs Willa Wilson. The Bishop preached the sermon. The organist was Mrs Evelyn Johnston.

Following the Service an excellent meal was served in the parochial hall. 44 people attended, including guests. Long Service Certificates were presented to the three ladies by the Diocesan President. Geraldine Beattie.

The celebration cake was baked by Betty Little and iced by Anne Rowley. The flowers in the church were arranged by Mae Eames and table centres by Joan Nixon and Willa Wilson.

Sermon preached by the Rt Revd Dr MGStA Jackson, bishop of Clogher

Readings: (of St Matthew’s Day): Proverbs 3:13-18; psalm 119:65-72; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; Matthew 9:9-13

The Lord has shown you, o man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6.8.

The Mothers’ Union, at last count, boasted a membership of 3.6 million and these members are to be found in 78 countries world-wide. None of this will be news to any of you gathered here this evening to mark and celebrate, in worship and hospitality, forty years of co-operation between the two MU branches of Derryvullen Parish and Garvary Parish. But I want us to spend a little longer with the figures which I have just mentioned – 3.6 million members in 78 countries. This surely is phenomenal. Such is the scope and the reach of the organization of which you are all members. But I also want us to spend a little longer with these figures for yet another reason. Both size and distribution point in the direction of something which is all too often sadly missing in the institutionalized church of today – a willingness to think big and a willingness to think difference. Because, there is no point in telling me anything other than that where there are 3.6 million members there are anything less than 3.6 million opinions!

While the church at home is trying its utmost to make us all be the same, think the same, do the same – and in so doing is sucking the life-blood out of itself - the Mothers’ Union worldwide is not afraid of being different, of doing different things in different places and in starting with human realities which still today some in the institutional church are attempting to tell us do not exist – because, in their opinion, such people ought not to exist: single-parent families; sufferers from HIV/AIDS; people who can neither count nor write; people who are trafficked for the sex trade all over the world – the list is endless To my mind, the institutional church is increasingly walking itself into a dead-end of condemning a whole range of human sufferings and human sadnesses - simply because its own theological way of reading has left it with no option other than to condemn and, in condemning, sadly not to show any sign of compassion. This is a far from adequate working definition of the church as a living embodiment of the Spirit of the Christ in the world today and, if it doesn’t worry us, it really ought to.

This is a serious situation and one from which most people whom I know shy away – either through fear of facing something human which will not move out of the way, or through a misplaced sense of personal superiority in the face of something which ought not to be or indeed from a sense of bewilderment as to what to do about it that could possibly help. These responses are inadequate and insufficient. Once the church becomes a human construction which serves first and foremost its own expectations as an institution, there is in fact no scope for confidence to break across lines, to take risks and to touch those who are untouchable in any society. It is always important to remember that the church, at its deepest understanding of itself, follows the Servant and serves the unloved. We hear so much today of ‘growing leaders,’ as if it were the role of the church to produce prize exhibits for a village fete. But we are, all of us, ‘followers of the Servant,’ called as we are reminded in the Gospel for St Matthew’s Day: to follow Jesus.

For Matthew, to follow Jesus meant: to move. He could not simply sit around in the same old place and in the same old way and doing the same old thing. We know that Jesus Himself got no thanks for inviting Matthew to follow him, because his disciples were asked almost immediately: Why does your Teacher eat with those who are corrupt and unclean? – corrupt because they work for the Government of Occupation, unclean because they handle money and both corrupt and unclean because they could not possibly keep the requirements of the Holiness Code and be really, really religious. The reply of Jesus is interesting and leads us back to what I was saying right at the beginning about Mothers’ Union being, world-wide and internationally, where life is lived as life is. Mothers’ Union, therefore, by responding in a Christ-like way in its local setting catches out the people who pretend to live by Scripture but, in reality, live only by the sheen and sparkle of their own self-righteousness: You simply cannot grow religion like tomatoes or vegetable-marrows. You have to live it and show it, you have to let it make its own mistakes as well as living in the hope of reaping its harvest. Sacrifice and the creating of a caste of holy people is not what Jesus wants; what he wants is mercy – acts of goodness to people who may be good or bad or indeed – dare I say, like all of us - a bit of both.

Again, I see just too little of this in the institutional church of today. The narrowing of the goal-posts of generosity has meant, increasingly, that we wish to police more and more precisely who may dare to come in and stay. The message of the prophets of the Old Testament, itself so often taken as the justification of our God-given entitlement to condemn and to exclude, has a different consistency about it. In replying to the Pharisees in the Gospel which we have just heard, from Matthew, Jesus quotes from the prophet Hosea. Listen maybe also to Isaiah in the first chapter of his prophesying: ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices, says the Lord.’ Now in case, at the mention of Sodom and Gomorrah, any of us is making ready to toast our marshmallows at the flames of sinners and evil-doers, I have to stop us there. The warning offered by the Lord has to do with those who see themselves as being on the inside, it has to do with the distinction between self-righteousness and justice, rather than between purity and impurity. Because, were we to read on, the prophet Isaiah ‘nails it,’ as they say: ‘Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.’ The touchstone of recognition of God the Lord in our midst is in our response to those whom the religious leaders of the day seem to want not to exist: the poor, those at the margins, the forgotten, the unprotected, those who count for nothing and are rejected from a society. We must ask in our own day: How much have things really changed? And then we have that wonderful summary from Micah, another Old Testament prophet – what is referred to as The Micah Challenge – doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly.

What is so strong and so refreshing about this is that all three parts - doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly - hold together and together they have a certain equivalence. Whatever language we prefer to use about God, for that language to be authentic it points us to the same God, in different ways of course, but always to the same God. Justice, kindness and humility are the same in God and as followers and disciples of God we are asked, called, invited to express in our doing, our loving and our walking the same characteristics of God: justice, kindness and humility. In the prophecy of Micah, the people are responding to God who cannot understand why they have turned away from him; once they recognize what they have done, they rush to offer to sacrifice gifts of greater and greater worth to them themselves: calves a year old, thousands of rams, ten thousands of rivers of oil, their first-born child! God replies that what he wants from them is not any of these things that they have named or, again, anything or anyone they have brought to life, but what he has himself already given them: doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly with God, not seeking to walk away from God.

It sounds easy. As, tonight, we celebrate a significant occasion in the life of these two Branches of the Mothers’ Union in Derryvullen and in Garvary, we can take heart from the ways in which worldwide Mothers’ Union works and prays to fulfil this challenge of the prophet Micah. It strikes a chord with the picture drawn by the earthly Jesus, as he embraced in the name of himself and of the Father and of the Spirit, the undesirables of the day. There is no point sitting in the doctor’s Waiting Room, he says, if there really is nothing the matter with you. Please make way for those who need something more than you do. And right across the known world, day by day and hour by hour members of the same Union as that to which you belong, the Mothers’ Union, are doing that work of Jesus Christ. In practical and prayerful ways they are drawing people out to follow Jesus.

I always remember St Matthew’s Gospel for the twenty-fifth chapter in particular where he describes the separation of sheep and goats. Often, I think that we all, myself included, imagine Judgement to be something which lies entirely in the future. It seems to be something which will happen some other day. But St Matthew 25 reminds us – and it is directly relevant to acts of justice, kindness and humility – that judgement has already happened when in another human person we react as we would to the person of Jesus Christ. People are positively surprised – and it is not with any false modesty or false humility – that they did something good. Refreshingly - they have no recollection of it. They were not doing it to tick it off on a list of good things to have done and to have been seen to have done. No – quite the opposite! They just did it. To have done something to the least of the brothers and sisters of Jesus the person is to have done it already to him. There is that closest of close links. For this understanding of judgement and for the simplicity of calling to: Follow Jesus we have a lot for which to thank Matthew this evening.

In congratulating you, the Members of Derryvullen and Garvary Mothers’ Union Branches, on your forty years together, I ask you to think of two things only: the breadth of witness made, often with great courage, by Members of the Mothers’ Union world-wide AND the simplicity of the invitation of Jesus Christ to Matthew and to every disciple since that very special day when Matthew got up and followed: Follow me!

Matthew 9.9: As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, Follow me. And he got up and followed him.

Date: 23 September 2008