GCU swan song — a further report
The magnet in the bookshop at High Leigh bore the legend: ‘Faith is not believing that God can, but knowing that he will’, and this seemed to reflect the theme of the last ever GCU conference.
Celebrating its 95 years of work in the Lord’s service among UK schoolgirls, the Girl Crusader’s Union officially closed its doors in 2010, due mainly to a lack of young leaders coming through the ranks.
Some 110 former leaders, workers, missionaries and ‘girls’ braved the deep winter conditions on 3-5 December 2010, some from as far afield as Glasgow and Northern Ireland.
Opening the conference, former head office worker Joan Barnett declared: ‘We have never had such a mix of leaders and friends, and never will again’.
The first ever High Leigh GCU conference was held in 1947 — and some of the delegates at the last conference in 2010 had attended some of the first few conferences at High Leigh.
A display around the room showed how many faithful women had been saved through and encouraged by the work of the GCU, through conferences, literature, groups and camps. At least 831 missionaries known to GCU have been sent out. There may be many more. The first ever girl crusader missionary, Miss Daisy Lucas, was sent out shortly after the founding of the work in 1919 and remained a missionary until 1956.
One of her old letters to the GCU was read out, words as true today as they were in the 1950s: ‘Commit, trust and obey: you will find that he never fails you’.
Thousands more have come to know the Lord since 1919 through the work of weekly Bible studies and Easter and summer camps; many girls professed faith in Christ during camps in 2010 alone.
Speaking in two Bible study sessions at the conference was Rev. David Jackman, of the council of reference, and whose wife, Heather, was a former girl at the Banstead class. He took as his text Joshua’s last words to the people of Israel in Joshua chapters 23 and 24, ‘full of significance’ as Joshua handed the work over to other leaders.
Although there was rest after the conquest, there were battles to come and Joshua was passing on the standard to the next generation.
Past to present
We have seen much for which to be thankful and remain confident about what is to come. This was the message given at a time of thanksgiving, led by Margaret Norgate the outgoing head of staff at GCU, who has been with the organisation in various guises for nearly 40 years.
Many people from across the UK spoke movingly of their experience with GCU. The staff from headquarters at 31 Catherine Place, told us of their waiting upon the Lord for leading as to where they will find employment.
God’s graciousness to GCU was revealed as we ‘thanked him for all he has done’; not least the vision of one of the original founding ladies who, in the 1940s, sought to raise £5,000 to buy a property for GCU in Westminster — 31 Catherine Place.
That property is now worth more than £1m — a princely sum that will be divided between various Christian youth ministries. ‘The vision of those five ladies has had a world-wide and wonderful effect’.
The last president of GCU, former missionary Dr Helen Roseveare, gave the final message, encouraging us to build on the past and move into the future with God. She said, ‘I see this not so much as a closure but a passing on of the baton. It has been a privilege to have had just a tiny part of God’s vast eternal plan of salvation. We must now ask God: “What would you have me do now?”’
As we move from the ‘from’ into the ‘into’, we need to keep on keeping on while we have the strength and mental ability to continue to lead people to the Lord, as we walk towards heaven.
The work of GCU may have stopped, but the work of evangelism among young girls and boys is very much alive. ‘We’ll trust him for all that’s to come’.