St. John’s Women’s Retreat is a monthly gathering open to all women for a time of education, Bible study, mission work & fellowship. It is held at the church the second Saturday of each month September – June from 9 am to noon. Refreshments are available during an informal gathering time before the program begins. There is often a guest speaker or a speaker from the group to lead a topic of interest, and sometimes a book review and discussion of a book designated at the previous meeting. You are invited to attend any month whether you can make one, several, or all the meetings each year.
above: Women’s Retreat making Christmas stockings for Norristown State Hospital on November 12, 2016 (photos from Facebook by Rev. Sue Bertolette).
A highlight of the Women’s Retreat is the annual December Women’s Christmas Tea, a ‘dressy’ affair complete with traditional tea party table decor and menu. All women are welcome whether or not they can attend the monthly meetings.
Historical Notes: The Women’s Retreat is a contemporary extension of our past St. John’s ‘Women’s Guild’ and “Circle” meetings. These organizations were at their peak in the early to mid-20th century when few women worked outside the home and were not given positions on the church consistory. The ‘Circle’ groups primarily met during the day, often at member’s homes, for a gathering of learning, discussions, mission work and fellowship. They came together for meetings as the “Women’s Guild” for discussions, speakers and projects, often with several hundred women in attendance. (See our St. John’s Stories page for the time in 1952 when author Pearl Buck spoke to the Women’s Guild gathering of 325 people!) This Guild was very well organized and documented – our St. John’s archives room contains several large binders of minutes, notes and newspaper articles concerning the activities and speakers of this group going back to the 1930’s era. Before that, there were women’s groups which met in women’s homes in the 1920’s known as the “Thimbles”. The article from the October 2, 1932 Herald below announces the end of the Thimbles group and anticipates the formation of the Circles.
Below: 1955 Women’s Guild Officers; Sample Women’s Guild program listing from 1957; and a letter sent to the women of the church in 1951 giving details about this organization.
This article below appeared in the St. John’s Herald on January 31, 1960. (Note that the language had not been changed to ‘United Church of Christ’ yet but still referred to ‘Evangelical & Reformed Church’, our denomination prior to 1957.)
Before the Women’s Guild, the St. John’s Ladies’ Aid Society was doing mission work in the early 20th century. Women have always had an important role here.