Sisters In The Ecclesia
IN writing to his son in the faith Timothy, concerning the purpose of his first Epistle, the Apostle Paul declared, "These things write I unto thee that thou mayest know how thou oughest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church [ecclesia] of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth." There is much in the Apostle's instruction of especial interest and importance to sisters.
In most ecclesias, sisters are numerically stronger than brethren, and this fact in itself emphasies the influence for good or ill which they exert. The Apostles frequently reminded Timothy of the power of example - "Take heed unto thyself." This precept, when applied to sisters in the ecclesia, is capable of the widest application. From the moment that each sister enters the "assembly of called out ones," she becomes an example for good or bad to all her fellow-worshippers. A faithful sister will remember the gracious appeal of the Psalmist, "0 worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, and will endeavour to comply with this beautiful precept. Her mind will be suitably prepared to receive the impressions which collective worship affords. Quietness and thoughtfulness will characterize her demeanour before the commencement of the meeting. Close attention will be given to the spiritual ministrations of prayer, praise and exhortation. Meticulous care will be exercised to maintain the standard of holiness which becomes those who would worship the Father in "Spirit and in Truth." No worshipper at the weekly memorial feast will so far forget her call to holiness as to manifest unseemly behaviour of any kind in the presence of Christ. She will not be given to whispering or wool-gathering. She will not attend to "pay her vows" clad in unbecoming or unsuitable attire. Her appearance will be modest, neat and undistracting to fellow-worshippers. The exigencies of war- time conditions have brought great changes in styles of feminine attire. This calls for a timely word of warning, especially in regard to hats. Many women of the world have almost discarded this article of clothing. Even the leaders of religion have so far relaxed their rules as to permit women to attend Church services with their heads uncovered. No such innovation will mar the meetings of the brethren and sisters of Christ. Rather will sisters ensure that the hats they are wearing are really a covering. They prefer to approximate more closely to Apostolic command, than to descend to the worldly fashions and customs of their more fleshly-minded contemporaries.
In imparting instruction concerning "good behaviour in the house of God," the Apostle includes exhortation and warning concerning speech. His words have particular reference to sisters. They must be "grave." No breath of slander must escape their lips, nor words of gossip or tittle- tattle be found on their tongues. Rather will the "assembly of the saints" be utilized for the furtherance of mutual spiritual interests. Many opportunities present themselves, for which wise sisters will be on the look-out. Visitors from other meetings can be given an affectionate welcome -newly immersed sisters imparted words of tenderness and love. The harassed and wearied can be buoyed up. Problems can be discussed with sisterly affection; arrangements can be made for the writing of letters, for the care of children, for the visiting of the sick, and sometimes invitations can be extended to troubled or lonely ones. These are golden opportunities which will not be missed by energetic and zealous workers in the service of Christ who desire to use the social intercourse available at the ecclesial meetings as a means of useful and edifying conversation.
An important duty in ecclesial life which devolves upon sisters is the attendance at the quarterly business meetings. Their influence on these occasions is very far- reaching, for their numerical strength must greatly affect the result of the ballots. It is imperative, in the interests of the Lord's work, that the divine commands relative to the elections of those who serve the ecclesia are fully comprehended and acted upon. No hesitation or doubt must be entertained, for the word of the Apostle to Timothy are emphatic on this point. (See First Epistle, ch. 3, verses 1-10.) Before attending a business meeting where elections are to take place, sisters should study the necessary qualifications required by divine command, and decide, to the best of their knowledge, upon the suitability of each brother to be elected to office. Intelligent interest will be taken in all ecclesial arrangements and affairs, and loyal co-operation and support given in the furthering of the Truth of God.
There is a department in the service of Christ worthy of mention, which is reserved exclusively for sisters. It is the Sisters' Class, in which is to be found a meeting place and a delightful haven, where the more intimate problems of sisters can be affectionately considered. An opportunity is provided in the course of "sweet communion" around the Word of God for compliance with the Apostolic precept "the elder to teach the younger." Using, possibly, the writings of Dr. Thomas and Bro. Roberts as a basis, instruction can be imparted concerning the special duties of sisters in their ecclesial work. The mutual study thus fostered is beneficial in providing food for reflection, and inducing robust spiritual growth. So long as this high standard is maintained, a Sisters' Class is productive of much that is useful and good. It creates a lively interest and encourages reading and research, which cannot fail to develop the minds of those who regularly attend.
Last, but by no means least, among the "good works" with which Paul says "women professing godliness" adorn themselves, is the patient instruction of the children in the Sunday School. This department of the Lord's work has been termed "the cradle of the ecclesia." Much perseverance and effort is needed if the children are to benefit from the labours of their teachers. Conscientious preparation of a good lesson must be undertaken beforehand, so that the sisters are thoroughly familiar with the subject. They must be consistent, masterful and tactful in the handling of the children. Lessons must be made interesting, and scholars encouraged to ask questions. The moral aspect of the Truth must be emphasized, and the teachers themselves, examples of their teaching. To take part in this work is to materially assist in the noble occupation of "raising unto the Lord a godly seed," which will prove a "crown of rejoicing in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming."
These, then, are some of the activities available to those who desire to "Labour much in the Lord." There are others which will occur to the mind of each individual. Sisters who engage in them wholeheartedly and faithfully will become possessed of the secret of wise and useful lives. They will diffuse joy and happiness to others, and "lay up for themselves a good foundation against the time come." Who are the blest?
This is the ideal, poetically expressed, of every worthy sister who aspires to be among the "blessed of the Father" in the great day of inspection. In endeavouring to reach unto it she will be ever watchful for her Lord, having her lamp well trimmed against the day of His coming. She will use her talents with diligence and care, and will carry out all her works of mercy and ministration in the spirit of the Master's words, "Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me." May all who read these few simple lines be privileged, in the mercy of God, to receive the Master's approval, and hear from his lips those welcome words-"Well done, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."