President’s activities since the AGM:
Attended Deanery Festival Services – the service in Downend for Kingswood & S.Glos was attended by Bishop Viv who preached and commissioned Rev Chris Dobson as our new MU Diocesan Chaplain. There was a Service for Mary Sumner Day at St Saviour’s, Coalpit Heath which was well attended. Several of us attended the General Meeting in Portsmouth on 18th September – see report below.
There was one MULOA session for Chippenham Deanery in Corsham but I do need to find a way of getting into branches to deliver a short version of MULOA so please think about inviting me and our Project Development Co-ordinator, Rachel Williamson to one of your meetings.
In September I met Clare Walker, South West representative for ‘Home for Good’ which is a charity which aims to make adoption and fostering a significant part of the life and ministry of the Church in the UK.
Home for Good is dedicated to inspiring, equipping and coordinating the network of local movements, churches and individuals who are making the Home for Good vision a reality. They raise awareness of the need for foster and adoptive parents, encourage families to provide loving homes for the children in care, and equip churches to offer welcoming communities for them.
When I met Clare she explained that their charity was interested in more than just finding new foster/adoption places – they work with vulnerable children and it’s about ‘Sharing the vision’. As the saying goes “It takes a whole village to raise a child” so it can take “The whole church”. It’s for supporting vulnerable people and the families they are placed with – with love, cake and prayer. They campaign for better outcome for “care experienced” children. She will happily speak to any group. Contact email: email@example.com (07780 934 330)
The database is getting more accessible and Deanery Leaders can now sign up to receiving the Members Directory newsletter and tutorials for accessing the database. This means more people can be responsible for updating membership – death, moves and new members. I would suggest that Deanery Leaders should all take this on and ask that Branch Leaders make sure they update them when there are any changes in their membership.
Many of you know that our new Worldwide President was invited to speak at General Synod in York. Sheran Harper gave an inspirational address which received a standing ovation. Following this I sent an email to Bishop Viv and asked her how we could respond and this was her reply:
“Thank you for your determination to raise the profile of MU. It needs to be part of the diocesan/episcopal comms strategy that is being worked on over coming weeks. We ought to be linking that up with the Lambeth Conference preparation (As you know, we will un-doubtedly have visiting MU leaders in the pre-conference hospitality staying in the diocese). I suggest that we need to prepare well for that, and then pick up on connections made.”
We in the MU have been asked to be responsible to accommodating visiting Bishops and their wives pre Lambeth Conference please do contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or your Deanery Leader, if you are able and willing to act as host over the weekend of 17th-20th July 2020.
Report on General Meeting:
Sheran Harper, Worldwide President, as keynote speaker welcomed members joyfully proclaiming to the audience of almost 1000; "What a joy it is to be part of a family that transforms hearts, lives and families in step with God. Let us go forward in recognition that we are the living hope of a loving God. I thank you, I love you and may God bless you!"
Sheran shared some of her experiences of the first nine months, during which time she has visited 11 dioceses, including a visit to a prison in Wales where members are providing a play area for children visiting their parents so they have a welcome distraction if needed during the three hour visitation period. She also talked about areas around the world where Mothers’ Union has been working closely with communities bringing peace and reconciliation, building resilience and helping in recovery from natural disasters. She told how in Madagascar, in the Diocese of Mahajanga, communities have decided to address the issue of environmental preservation and have cultivated a plant called Vetiver which is a fast-growing grass that preserves the soil during the rainy season. After the Vetiver is uprooted, trees that fertilise the soil and store water in their trunks are planted as they also provide great barriers when the cyclones hit. She finished her talk by promoting Families First as something that all MU members should read and MUJLOA and summed up her talk quoting Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
“From small shoots”: Zonal Trustee June Butler chaired a panel discussion with members who each spoke about projects and initiatives in their areas which were positively impacting their communities. Deborah Munday from Scotland spoke about how their members responded to a request of help from clergy, providing local families providing underwear for children; pencil cases; and a day out under AFIA.
Caroline Collins of Liverpool diocese spoke about how members made little “bags of love”, ” – small bags containing a tea bag, coffee sachet, cake or biscuit, a bar of chocolate and 2 prayers - for mums and dads dropping off their children at their first day of school to let them know that they were being thought of and prayed for.
Kathleen Wilson described how they had been approached by the prison warden where Mothers’ Union members in Durham volunteered to set up a branch of MU in the prison. There are more than 15 members in this branch and the project has gained recognition culminating in MU being invited to participate in a meeting in the House of Lords during Prisons Week.
June also spoke of a prison project that they had set up in Ireland where they had purchased multiple sets of books so family members can read together even though they are separated.
They also made duffle bags so that when prisoners left prison they had a bag (a “Dignity Bag”) to put their belongings in rather than a black plastic bag.
All these projects started from small ideas and have flourished in many ways to support local communities.
Myth Busters: Zonal Trustee Nikki Sweatman and Provincial President of York June Houghton then took to the stage to tackle some common myths that they had been asked many times when visiting dioceses in their province. One was that members did not have to belong to a branch and a there could be MU groups in a Wine bar, or at a Toddler Group. That a group could be formed using Whatsapp or Facebook . They reminded us that people could join as a ‘Friend’ if they didn’t want to commit themselves or were not baptised. Meetings do not have to be during the afternoon – look for times that are more convenient for future members. There does not need to be a speaker at every meeting. There are lots of ideas on the website for having ‘do-it-yourself’ meetings and branches or groups can manage without a speaker. The main message is that “It is OK to change things”!
One member commented afterwards “it really helped dioceses to better inform their members who had been yearning for such clarifications for years!”
The afternoon session began with the Chief Executive address from Bev Jullien in which she updated members on the progress of a number of initiatives such as the database and Communities of Interest, gave a financial update and also spoke about some of the moments of impact MU has had over the past year such as our Thy Kingdom Come service in Coventry and Sheran addressing General Synod in July. She told us how Worldwide Council in Kigali, Rwanda, this year had given us a description – Our Identity:
Mothers’ Union is a global, women-led, volunteer movement. United in our diversity and living out our faith,
we support individuals and families to transform their lives. Embedded in the Church and community, we
have unprecedented reach that gives a voice to the stigmatized and vulnerable around the world.
Bev spoke about Mary Sumner House and emphasised that the place is a source of income although the building needs some modifications. It will not be sold but money will have to be spent on it to bring it up-to-date. There is an Advisory Committee which will make its recommendations to the Board at the end of this year.
She spoke of the importance of the Lambeth Conference taking place in July 202 and asked us all to pray for it.
The guest speaker for the afternoon was the Reverend Barry Hill, himself a proud Mothers’ Union member! Barry spoke to delegates on evangelism, discipleship and how to work well with clergy. Sharing specific stories of the “mini-revolutions of mission” Mothers’ Union are making across the country in areas like gender-based violence, education, exploitation and prison work, he encouraged the gathering “not to settle for a smaller, easier vision of the difference Mothers’ Union are called to make in the Kingdom of God.” He continued, “Whilst Mothers’ Unions are often known for being excellent at hospitality, we know cuppas and cakes are only a tiny part of the bigger calling. Most of our country know a committed Christian, most don’t know a vicar. Mothers’ Union members are brilliantly placed to share faith and make a practical Kingdom-of-God-difference Monday to Saturday.” He said “Prayer is ‘the wind turbine of the Church’”.
Members were then able to listen to Adam Sach, MU Head of Fundraising and Communications, encourage those present to think about “what makes them proud to be a member of Mothers’ Union”. He said “I would like to work with you to find even more ways to ensure Mothers’ Union is more visible, to encourage even more people to get involved and to secure funds to help make the amazing difference you, in many different ways, are a part of right here in Britain and Ireland as well as across the world”.
We watched a Video Message from our new Central Chaplain, Bishop of Penrith, Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson.
The meeting concluded with Sheran announcing the annual theme for next year as “Building hope and confidence”. She enthused “I have never been more hopeful about the future of Mothers’ Union as I am today…let us walk together in hope and confidence, trusting each other… and building the hope and confidence of families and communities as we reach forward as God’s hands and feet”.
General Meeting 2020 will be in Belfast. A small group of MU members will be planning this and were present in the Market Place asking for suggestions.
There are videos and reports from the General Meeting and lots more information on the Mothers’ Union website (www.mothersunion.org) – do have a look under ‘news’!