Back in the Dark Ages, in my home Church were some little purple Lent boxes
with a slot for money, inviting donations for “The Church of England Children’s Society”, formerly known as “The Waifs and Strays Society”.
I was probably about nine at the time, a little precocious; and I took it upon myself to deliver these around the village. I collected them at the end of Lent, and was pleasantly surprised at how much had been donated. The Rector took a small group of us over to the nearest C of E Children's Society Homes, Leighton Buzzard.
It seemed a happy place, and we were made to feel most welcome.
I was intrigued by the “formerly known as The Waifs and Strays”.
Researching this, I found out that "The Waifs and Strays' Society"
was founded in London in 1881 by Edward de Montjoie Rudolf, a civil servant,
who with his brother, Robert, was a Sunday School teacher in the parish of St Anne's, South Lambeth, a poor area with many needy children.
The brothers began running the Sunday School in 1871
when Edward was 19, and Robert 15.
One day in 1881 two brothers who attended the Sunday School suddenly stopped coming. They were later found in a neglected state, begging for food.
Their father had died, leaving their mother with seven children to look after.
She was unable to support the boys, but she did not want the family to go into the Workhouse. The Rudolf brothers tried to find a Church of England Home
for the boys, but they all required payment. Edward Rudolf decided that there was a need for Church of England Homes for destitute children that didn't require payment. Edward wrote letters to many people whom he thought might be interested in helping him establish children's homes.
In 1881 an inaugural meeting took place in London; The Archbishop of Canterbury was asked to become President of the Society, which became known as the
Church of England Central Home for Waifs and Strays'.
The Society grew rapidly. By 1905 it had 93 homes caring for 2,700 children,
whilst 745 were in foster care. In 1946 it was renamed the 'Church of England Children's Society', and from 1982 it adopted the title 'The Children's Society',
Working in the community rather than providing homes; Caring for children in need of care, not necessarily orphans.
The English word ‘orphan’ comes from the Greek orphanos,
meaning ‘bereaved’, ‘bereft’ or ‘deprived’;
which covered the brief of the C of E Children’s Society.
Jesus’s use of this term “orphaned” with its different connotations is apt for his disciples too; bereaved’, ‘bereft’, ‘deprived’;
They heard Jesus talk of leaving them; They had no idea that this was to happen the next day. He was to die and leave his disciples bereft His death would fill them with fear and terror. They would be left feeling vulnerable. They would panic.
Facing bereavement, being bereft, deprived of his teaching and leadership,
they turned and ran for their lives, abandoning him when things got rough.
Even knowing that, Jesus didn’t let them down.
“I will not leave you orphaned.” he promised;
Over and over, day after day, regardless of their abandonment of him, regardless of what happened to them.
And that is Jesus’s promise to his disciples today. We have not been abandoned; we will not be abandoned.
The Church, the home for the destitute, the bereaved, the abandoned, the lonely, the isolated, the worried, the anxious, the confused, the misunderstood, those going through a bad time…
Our Church, a home for life’s orphans.
Listen to the promise Jesus makes:
“I will never abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.
Even though the world will not be able to see me,
I will never vanish from your sight.
And since I live, you will also live.
Go from here in the knowledge
that you do not go alone…”
"I am with you until the end of time"
"I am your God, you are my people"
God is with us.
We are not alone.
We are not orphans, but loved children, held in your love and care.
Comfort us with the knowledge that you are in control
and that you will hold this fragile world together
until all is restored to your plan and order.
Give us, Father, a vision of your world
as love would make it;
a world where the weak are protected
and none go hungry;
a world whose benefits are shared,
so that everyone can enjoy them;
a world whose different peoples and cultures
live with tolerance and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice,
and justice is fired with love;
and give us the courage to build it,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen Betty Hares