The 9 August 2016 saw the 140th Anniversary of the founding of the Mothers’ Union when Mary Sumner, a Rector’s wife, first convened a meeting of the mothers of Old Alresford, Hampshire in 1876. Many of you may not know about the MU, as they are affectionately known, but there has been a branch in Billericay for 94 years and they boast some 4 million members in 83 countries worldwide. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the patron.
It’s said that the MU is the most effective deliverer of primary health care, post-trauma counselling, micro-finance, education and the general advancement and empowerment of women in societies in the global south. In addition, they are represented on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Across the world, the MU has held community life together through war and exile, famine, drought and plague. Moreover, in places where it takes immense courage just to stand still, women, together, are able to do much more than that: taking their families and their communities with them towards a better future.
I’ve witnessed at first hand, the wonderful work the MU undertake in Uganda, especially in the aftermath of the dictatorship of Idi Amin. It was the MU, working alongside the Anglican Church, who helped to restore the fortunes of that country. But also in the ravaged environments of African states that have been through, and continue to endure, so many life destroying experiences, the MU offers what no other group can: the local, effective, liberating building of potential and mutual support among women.
And what is true in many parts of the world is also true of the MU in the UK. Parenting; Prisons; Hospitals; Literacy and Development; work with Asylum-Seekers; Mother and Toddler groups and the Government sponsored Bye Bye Childhood campaign to challenge the commercialisation and sexualisation of children.
The Purpose, Aims and Objectives of the MU is to be specially concerned with all that strengthens and preserves marriage and family life. And, these are Christian values which are absolutely essential in the increasingly fragmented society in which we live today. Archbishop Justin Welby said:
The Mothers’ Union in so many places is an organisation that listens to the voices of weeping. Whether it’s in Burundi, the Congo or South Sudan; whether it’s in homes in cities where when the local football team loses there is a 50 percent increase in domestic violence; whether it is in the loneliness of weeping by people who are not suffering physically but are spiritually empty and lost; it is the Mothers’ Union that exists in the vision of Mary Sumner to speak of those things that God has provided that bring hope, help and a future.
There has never been a more challenging, or more exciting time to be part of MU and to be part of bringing positive change to family life. Members of the MU are not all mothers, some are: single; married; parents and grandparents – there are even some men who are MU members, myself included.
It seems fitting that I should conclude with the Mothers’ Union Prayer:
We thank you for Your love so freely given to us all.
We pray for families around the world.
Bless the work of the Mothers’ Union as they seek to share Your love
Through the encouragement, strengthening and support of marriage and family life.
Empowered by Your Spirit, may they be united in prayer and worship
And in love and service, reach out as Your hands across the world.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We have a special service planned on Sunday 18 September at 10.30 am at Emmanuel when we are very pleased to have as our Guest Speaker Nikki Sweatman, who is the Worldwide Provincial President of Canterbury. Do come along if you are interested in finding out a bit more about the work of the MU. You can contact the Branch leader via my email address here or surf their excellent website here www.mothersunion.org