PHILIPPINE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
The Fellowship of the Least Coin originated in the Philippines. FLC is now a worldwide ecumenical program as adopted by 80 countries around the world. This is according to the Asian Church Women Conference as reported in their 50th anniversary last 2006.
What, why and how did the Fellowship of the Least coin developed? This happened during the sojourn of Mrs. Shanti Solomon a woman leader of Northern India. She was invited by Ms Margaret Shannon of the Presbyterian Church USA in 1956 to be a member of the seven Women leaders from various part of the world. The main purpose was to visit the Asian countries along the Pacific ocean such as Japan, the Philippines, and Korea with the aim in view of spreading the message of love, through peace, justice and reconciliation among the Asian who were the victim of abused and discrimination and suffering due to the Second World War that ended in 1945.
After gathering in New York for planning their itinerary they made their trip to Japan, the Philippines and Korea. When Shanti applied for a visit visa from Korea embassy in Manila, she was denied. She could not make the trip to Korea then. The reason for the non-issuance of a visa to Shanti Solomon was due to the mediation made by the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru of recommending the demarcation line of 38th parallel as boundary between North Korea and South Korea. United Nations Organization requested India for being a neutral country. But the boundary line displeased the South Korea and this strained the relationship between India and South Korea.
Ms Shanti Solomon requested for the six women leaders to proceed to Korea and she will stay in the Philippines and wait for their return after 2 to 3 weeks. That was at the third week of July 1956. While in the Philippines, Ms. Solomon met with the Church Women United headed by Atty. Naomi Phodaca Salvador. CWU-Philippines came together for a meeting and sharing of concerns that the team of seven women leaders would like to accomplish: such as promote peace, justice, and reconciliation to countries that were torn and create too much suffering to the Asian people. The meeting was followed with a weekends spiritual retreat attendee by the key women leaders of the different churches, such as: Atty. Belen Villanueva, Vice-President-CWU, Mrs. Rosario Atienza, treasurer-CWU, Mrs. Jael Cruz, Auditor-CWU and Mrs. Felicidad G. Catli, Secretary-CWU. From the Methodist Church, Ms Ruth G. Prudente and Ms. Fabro; Unida: Mrs. Victorino, IEMILIF Mrs. Natividad, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Mrs. Rafaela Defeo,and Eleuteria Rodriguez; Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches – Mrs. Josefina Ruiz and Juana Dayuan Garcia of the Philippine Federation of Christian Churches (PFCC.) and Atty Josefina Phodaca Ambrocio, President, Internationales de Abogadas. 1
During the Retreat a project was conceived by Mrs. Shanti Solomon, that a prayer circle among the various women organizations of the different denominations be carried on based on peace, justice and reconciliation. And after the prayers the individual women participants must save the least coin that she has by dropping it in a piggy bank for that day. This project was wholeheartedly approved for immediate implementation.
Mrs. Rosario Atienza and Mrs Rafaela Defeo, President of Dorcas Society of Southern Tagalog Conference launched the saving of the least coin by keeping it in the coconut shell piggy bank.(alkansiyang bao). Each member of the local Dorcas Society must do the saving of the least coin. It was decided that alkansiya will be brought during the annual Conference for de-dedication through worship for thanksgiving and dedication of the alkansiya being offered by various local Dorcas society of STC. That was held at the UCCP-Lingga Memorial Church, Lingga, Calamba, Laguna on January 22, 1957.1 The holding of the Dedication of the least coin in Lingga was to commemorate the martyrdom of the 31 men who were members of Lingga Evangelical Church during the war and killed by the Japanese soldiers in 1944.2 From then on to the present the dedication of the Least coin became a landmark of STC – Christian Women Association as the pioneer in the implementation of such an august and meaningful project. The dedication of the Least Coin is now on its 50th year.
In 1965 the United Church Men of Magill Memorial Church initiated the offering of what they called as Biggest Coin and was conceptualized by Mr. Crisanto Tadiosa Sr., Bevienido Zaballero, Dr. Dauz, Eleuterio Evangelista and Daniel Concepcion. This UCM project was launched during the STC conference held at Magill memorial Church, Lucena City. And the following year the dedication of the biggest coin was held side by side with the dedication of the least coin in May 1966. And in 1990 the Christian Youth Fellowship offered their fellowship coin. When the STC Retired Church Workers and Spouses Association was organized in November of 2006 it was decided that their share will be called Golden Coin for the Fellowship of Coins. 2
The dedication of the least coin adopted the Fellowship of the Least Coin for having been a worldwide program of 80 countries as reported by the Asian Church Women United Conference.
GROWTH OF FELLOWSHIP OF THE LEAST COIN:
The idea of the FLC quickly gained a worldwide acceptance. In 1966 when the FLC celebrated its 10th year anniversary women leaders from 24 countries participated in the movement. The Asian Church Women Conference 1970 hired the services of Shanti Solomon to serve as the Executive Secretary thus launching a much wider ecumenical FLC movement around the world. When the FLC silver jubilee in 1980 was celebrated there were 75 countries participated in the program. In 1996, 70 women from 80 countries around the world celebrated the 40th of FLC.3
CIRCLE OF PRAYER:
Feeling the need to reaffirm prayer as the vital element of FLC, the ACWC asked the women of Hong Kong to prepare a booklet of prayers to be used as the “least coin” is set aside. Since then, the Circle of Prayer booklet has become an important part of the FLC. Twenty four meditations and prayers are written by women around the world and published by international Committee for FLC every two years.
THE FLC LOGO:
The idea for FLC logo – the praying hands forming a lotus flower –came from the late Mrs. Rayann Ma from Hong Kong. She was the first Chairperson of the assembly of the Asian Church’s Conference (ACFLC). The actual design was a gift of her brother-in-law, James Ma, a commercial artist.5
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR THE FLC:
“Because the FLC prayer movement became truly world-wide and the grants were made to programs and projects all over the world, an International Committee for FLC (ICFLC) was formed in 1979 to administer the promotion, the interpretation of the movement and the allocation of FLC grants. The International Committee comprises representatives of world-wide ecumenical women’s organizations and of regional ecumenical Conferences of Churches. Year after year the ICFLC learns to trust God more and more and to work in faith. The Committee meets every year to share the miraculous works of the FLC around the world and decide on flc grants for the following year. Application forms for project grants are received four months prior to the meeting. The members of the Committee study the application forms, pray about them, discuss and decide on each project without knowing how much FLC funding will be available for the grants they wish to allocate for each year. The “least coins” from around the world come with prayers, quietly and gradually, to meet the needs for each year. Our gentle, loving and compassionate God never fails us. God does great works through the humble, the least, the marginalized and the poor. That’s the strength, the promise, the beauty, and the surprise upholding the FLC prayer movement.
Every year ICFLC is invited by different regions to hold its meeting in their country. An exposure and visitation program is added to the regular business meeting in order for representatives to know about the region and to be aware of the issues and the concerns of the people there. ICFLC meetings have been held recently in Vancouver, Canada, (1995), Christchurch, NewZealand (1996), Helsinki, Finland (1997) and Chiang Mai, Thailand (1998). Every four years the Committee meets immediately Following the ACWC Assembly.” 4
“Each year about 35 to 50 projects are given grants. Each regional Women’s desk of Ecumenical Conferences, the Women’s Desk of World Council of Churches and the World Day of Prayer International Committee are given block grants to enhance their work and to strengthen ecumenical solidarity. Emergency grants for disaster relief and rehabilitation are also given.4
In allocating grants, the ICFLC keeps in mind the following categories.
+ Opportunities for awareness-raising and/ or educating women on gender issues.
+ Programs of literacy, health, social concerns and leadership development recommended by recognized Christian groups.
+ Programs enhancing justice, peace and reconciliation for women and families, communities, countries and the world.
+ Opportunities for women to meet ecumenically in regional, national, and world-wide gatherings.
THE UNIQUENESS OF FLC
The FLC prayer Movement is simple, yet, significant and unique:
1. It brings Christian women together in fellowship of prayer without any discrimination of race, nationality, color, culture or denomination. Christian women have solidarity through their common concern and love for humankind. Women of the world are bound together by both giving “least coins” and by women of every region receiving grants.
2. The offering is unique because all, whether rich or poor, or illiterate, urban or rural, give only the smallest coin of their currency. All are within the same discipline and share the common concerns of women around the world.
3. It is stewardship, both of the idea and of the Fund. When “least coins” are put together, along with the individual prayers offered by members throughout the work they become a strong force in bringing about justice, reconciliation and peace. The “least coins” teaches us to be humble, to value the least, and to trust that nothing is impossible for God who can do great things from out of the least and unexpected.”5
1. Minutes of Ellinwood Bible School from 1955-1965 as found in the Archives of The College of Christian Education, Philippine Christian University.
2. Solomon, Shanti “A Legend and Legacy” pages 34, 37, 42 published by Church of India 1987.
3. Presbyterian Women USA 1956-2006
4. Asian Church Women Conference – 2006 publication Bangkok, Thailand
5. Voices of Orthodox Women “The Fellowship of the Least Coin.” 7/25/2007
I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to Engr. Eli P. Bitancor for extending his assistance in doing this research through the FLC webpage directories in the internet using his laptop and internet connections.
Rev. Henry B. Aguilan
President, National Retired Church Workers and Spouses Association
United Church of Christ in the Philippines
Don Pedro Village Subd., 13 National Road Barangay Talaibon
4230 Ibaan, Batangas, Philippines