They were founded to promote women's education and wellbeing during the First World War. They are connected with the suffragette movement and Jerusalem was a rally hymn for that cause. It's adoption links votes with education and with promotion of women's wellbeing. The Jam connection is their encouragement of home food preparation at a time of challenge, when making the most of the fruits of the earth particularly mattered.
In a year when the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to two people for the promotion of children's education, not least for girls in countries where this is controversial and brings death threats, the work of the WI is worth celebrating and is a cause for reflection.
The WI also provides a vehicle for friendship and mutual care. My mother-in-law was a member in Kent and I know that she derived great support and friendship through it. Their strapline used to be 'for home and country'.
The prayer below was written for this visit today and is my attempt to bring these values and concerns together with some of the today's challenges.
God of justice, truth and peace
in your Son Jesus Christ,
you call men and women to follow you
and grow in faith, hope and love.
We give thanks for the Women's Institute
in promoting women's education and wellbeing,
bringing members together in friendship and mutual care.
Keep us ever mindful of the bonds that unite
strengthening cohesion in this land and throughout the world.
As we recall struggles for equality in the past,
we pray for all who strive for equality and education today,
remembering with thanksgiving the award of the Nobel Peace Price
for promoting these aims.
May the vision of the new Jerusalem become a reality
and all share in the rich bounty of the fruits of the earth:
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.