Remembered this month is Mary Sumner, founder of the Mothers’ Union.
The Mothers’ Union is now nearly 145 years old. It has accomplished a staggering amount in that time, and nowadays numbers more than four million members, doing good work in 83 countries. That is a far cry from the modest circle of prayer for mothers who cared about family life, which is how it all began with a rector’s wife, Mary Sumner.
Mary was born in late 1828 in Swinton, near Manchester. When she was four, her family moved to Herefordshire. Mary’s father, Thomas Heywood, was a banker and historian. Her mother has been described as a woman of “faith, charm and sympathy” – qualities which Mary certainly inherited. Mrs Heywood also held informal ‘mothers’ meetings’ at her home, to encourage local women. Those meetings may well have inspired Mary’s later work.
Mary was educated at home, spoke three foreign languages, and sang well. While in her late teens, on a visit to Rome she met George Sumner, a son of the Bishop of Winchester. It was a well-connected family: George’s uncle became Archbishop of Canterbury, and his second cousin was William Wilberforce. Mary and George married in July 1848, soon after his ordination. They moved to Old Alresford in 1851 and had three children: Margaret, Louise and George. Mary dedicated herself to raising her children and supporting her husband’s ministry by providing music and Bible classes.
When in 1876 Mary’s eldest daughter Margaret, gave birth, Mary was reminded how difficult she had found the burden of motherhood. Soon she decided to hold a meeting to which she invited the local women not only of her own class, but also all the village mothers. Her aim was to find out if women could be brought together to offer each other prayer and mutual support in their roles as wives and mothers. That meeting at Old Alresford Rectory was the inaugural meeting of the Mothers’ Union.
For 11 years, the Mothers’ Union was limited to Old Alresford. Then in 1885 the Bishop of Newcastle invited Mary to address the women churchgoers of the Portsmouth Church Congress, some 20 miles away. Mary gave a passionate speech about the poor state of national morality, and the vital need for women to use their vocation as mothers to change the nation for the better. A number of the women present went back to their parishes to found mothers’ meetings on Sumner’s pattern. Soon, the Mothers’ Union spread to the dioceses of Ely, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield and Newcastle.
By 1892, there were already 60,000 members in 28 dioceses, and by 1900 there were 169,000 members. By the time Mary died in 1921, she had seen MU cross the seas and become an international organisation of prayer and good purpose.
Well, what a strange year! Our AGM meeting usually is in March to coincide with the financial year, but this year both Dorothy and I were going to be away for that meeting so we planned it for April. Little did we know that April wasn’t going to happen either. So I thought the best plan would be to put the report in the magazine. At this time the magazine is going to be online, which means some people will still miss it, but please do your best to share it with others who aren’t on the Internet.
So 2019 began with the usual Epiphany party, this time led by our MU leaders as we were inter-regnum, using a service from the Iona community. It was an opportunity for people to get together and share food (always a good idea) and find out who their new Prayer Partner is for the year.
In June we held our joint annual Strawberry Supper as usual, and this was a huge success with quizzes, scones, cream, strawberries and lots of cake.
In July the evening group went to the New Victoria theatre in Newcastle to see ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’. None of us really knew what to expect, and at the interval we all looked at each other (over a cup of tea and a biscuit) and said “What was all that about?!” The second half was less confusing, and I have to say that the actors were very talented, all taking many parts as well as singing and playing instruments. It was a good fun evening out with friends. Perhaps a buffet next time???
The afternoon group experienced a successful afternoon tea in the Church Hall provided by Cobbles Tea Room, with tea-sets being supplied by The Lovely Little Vintage. We had a good turnout of members, and very little food was left over!
The September meetings were both in-house discussions, but I think these were the most successful. The evening group discussed ‘Friendships’, while the afternoon group, by request from Christine Jones, discussed ‘Loneliness’. She had invited Fiona Bruce MP along to the meeting, and we discovered how fortunate we are as a village to have so many opportunities for people to meet. Fiona gave us a talk and an update on how the Government is dealing with these issues.
October brought an open evening with Rev George Lane, chaplain at Manchester Airport, who told some interesting stories about his experiences of working at the airport. The wonderful ‘Making Music with Handbells’ with Susan Hawkes and the Middlewich handbell ringers came for the afternoon meeting. Some of us had a go and realised it wasn’t as easy as it looked!
November’s meetings were entitled ‘Christmas memories’, but we were very lucky to have been able to get the Hearing Dogs volunteers to come in with their training dogs. They visited us for the afternoon meeting and the evening meeting and were very informative.
In December the evening group returned to the George and Dragon for a meal and the afternoon group joined in Christmas carols and readings, with Christine Jones playing the piano for us. This was concluded by the sharing out of mince pies and Prayer Partner presents.
January is the time when we empty our Literacy boxes, and the money raised is sent to Chester for the Literacy Fund abroad. We raised £80.74 this year.
In April and November we have started holding a cake stall at coffee time after the Morning service in order to raise money for the Away From It All holidays. These are caravan holidays which MU provides for families who can’t afford them. These raised £305.30 this year, so we will try them again next year.
We would like to thank you all for your help over the past year in making our MU group a very successful and enjoyable one. Every little bit helps – and as you know we are a Committee-run group who needs a lot of support from you all in whichever way you can, including bringing your friends along. However we are now down to 6 committee members, so if any of you feel you could contribute to our meetings, which we only hold 3 times a year, please let us know. We do need some new ideas!
We discuss the preparation of the Easter Cross which we do each year, as well as decorating it on Easter Day. The Strawberry Supper arrangements are organised at another meeting, and the year’s calendar is planned at the other meeting.
Our Committee members are Dorothy Wood (Treasurer), Carole Elliott (Secretary), Caroline Burd, Christine Land, Ann Stafford and Jane Thomson. We have extra help for our Prayer Circle from Jean Paton, who is happy to help us ring round members when we know people are ill or need our prayers. We don’t have any indoor members, but we do have a list of people who are no longer able to attend our meetings and still need our thoughts and prayers.
We were delighted to welcome our local PCSO, Liz Chesters, to our meeting. The area Liz is responsible for includes Holmes Chapel, Twemlow, Goostrey, Cranage and the more rural area of Jodrell Bank. This work involves a different type of policing, engaging with the community and making the police more approachable. While walking around these areas, any trouble can be spotted and reported to the police.
Police Community Support Officers are a fairly new scheme which started in London in 2002 and has proved to be beneficial to both the Police and residents. “Bobbies” no longer walk the streets, so this scheme helps the police to be aware of what is happening on the streets. Due to cut backs, we no longer have a working police station in Holmes Chapel, our nearest police station is now in Crewe. This station also covers Middlewich and Sandbach.
A PCSO is a full time paid job providing a base to work from and dealing with local problems such as rubbish thrown into gardens, groups or individuals causing a nuisance on the streets or alleyways etc. They try to find out who is responsible and talk to them. Talks are given in schools, which gives children the confidence to approach the police if they have any concerns. Any issues reported to the public are always followed up. A PCSO is not allowed to make arrests – any serious incidents are immediately reported to the police who will follow these up. Serious incidents seen by the public should be reported to the police by ringing 999.
Liz has a base in the Community Centre where the public can discuss any issues. Talks are arranged there too. Trying to keep an eye on the whole area can be difficult, especially in the more rural parts. A local farm might be contacted and a meeting arranged there for others to attend.
Policing is always changing and adapting and at the moment we have one of the lowest crime rates in this area being 48th out of 50.
Liz and the other officers now have a new uniform body-guard, which is much heavier and stab proof, complete with new equipment. This includes a body camera which can be very useful in court as it records incidents as they happen, and a radio as well as phones. Liz enjoys her job keeping the area a safe place to live in. (See also page 21)
Please feel free to join us at any of our meetings. You will be given a warm welcome. For more information, please contact Carole Elliott (533882) or Dorothy Wood (533704)
We were visited by the Guides and Rangers to tell us about the overseas trips they undertook last year and forthcoming trips for which they are now busy fundraising.
There were eight MU members present and one guest. The meeting started with a short service led by Dorothy Wood including readings and prayers from Jean Paton and Chris Land.
The Guides then told us about the three trips that took place last year
The first was to Switzerland undertaken by Jenny, Charlotte and Lizzy. This was a 10 day coach trip for 20 guides and rangers from around Cheshire. They first went to an adventure park where they experienced speed abseiling, zip wires and white water rafting. They visited Jungfrau and particularly enjoyed the Ice Palace at the top of the mountain. They then spent time at Our Chalet which is one of the 5 Guiding World Centres.
The second group, Olivia and Leila, travelled to Slovenia. This was an 11 day community trip and they spent some time clearing litter, helping to clean the War Memorial and river beds. They also spent three days teaching English at a local school, around 30 students turned up each day. The exciting leisure activities included white water rafting and mountain walks. A highlight was attending the Mayor’s daughter’s party, who they later met again at Covent Garden around Christmas.
The third trip took Charlotte M to Mexico. She first spent three days in Mexico City where she explored and learnt about the culture of the area and tasted local foods, visiting Aztec pyramids, markets and the Frida Kahlo museum. The trip then continued to “Our Cabana”, the world guiding centre in Cuernavaca City, Mexico. The party joined an International Event with other guides from North America, Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas. They did crafts with children from a local orphanage, attempting to converse in Spanish. A highlight of the trip was waterfall jumping.
The groups created scrap books of their trips which they brought along for us to enjoy.
The girls who are currently fundraising for future visits then told us a little about the planned trips.
Francis, Evie and Mollie have been chosen for a Jamboree in Poland in July this year, wherethere will be around twenty thousand guides and scouts from all over the world.
Alice and Charlie will be going to Malta this summer for a ten day camping trip. They will be doing some community work whilst there.
Lily is going to Nepal in 2021. It is a community based project and they will be helping in an orphanage. She is particularly excited about the planned visit to an Elephant Sanctuary!
The trips are fun and educational. The fund raising which includes giving many talks before and after the trips really help them to gain confidence and get the best out of the whole experience.
The speaker was Pat Riches – an old friend and member of the branch – she came to talk about the Sycamore Tree Course.
There was a reasonable number of members at the meeting, which began with a short service led by Dorothy as Carol was away for quite some time in “foreign parts”. Val led us in some lovely prayers.
Pat began her talk be saying that she did not believe that punishment alone works – people need guidance to start a new life once released from prison. She did add that there are however evil people in this world whose behaviour can never be changed.
Pat is a volunteer on the Sycamore Tree Course at Thorn Cross Prison. The Course is faith led and all the sessions are based on the story of Zaccheus, a tax collector working for the Romans. (Cheating the people, he climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus as he was not very tall. Jesus called him down and went to his house. Eventually Zaccheus paid back all the money he had taken to line his own pocket.) The six sessions include talks, television and video clips, and small group discussions.
The people within each group try to explore the wider affects of their crimes, e.g. how whatever they did impacted on their victims and their own families. Some members of the groups are required to join the course as part of their sentence.
Pat had felt drawn to do something outside the church and prison work appealed to her. Gail Miller, who was our curate and is now a prison chaplain, may well have had a hand in this choice!
By the time the lads, as Pat referred to them, reach week six, they must complete a form of apology to their victims. They may write a letter, create a carving or paint a picture, to show their remorse.
There are some good outcomes as a result of the Course. One young man addicted to heroin had no idea of the harm he had caused, but eventually he was released from prison and went on a course of rehabilitation and he is now working as a Rehabilitation Officer himself!
Pat spoke about many individuals and her passion for the Course is amazing. We wished her well with her future work on the course.
Mothers’ Union is always pleased to welcome new people joining or coming to meetings as visitors.