Weekly Reflection - Remembering Mary Sumner, founder of the Mothers Union.

6 August 2021

Canon Peter

Living in an age when public leadership roles for women was widely resisted, Mary Sumner’s life teaches us all the value of believing that a better society is possible, and that we should work actively to bring it about. In 1876 she started a group that promoted the welfare of children, supported women and responded to local needs; within 20 years it had grown to a movement that reached across the commonwealth and had a membership of 169,000. On 9th August, the church will commemorate the centenary of Mary Sumner’s death and many of the 4 million members of the Mothers Union worldwide will be taking part in opportunities for prayer and community action over this summer as their organisation celebrates 145 years of championing the cause of women’s rights, family life and Christian mission.

Campaigning on issues of justice that affect the lives of women today the MU is a vibrant and powerful global organisation. Its voice on the agenda of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) mean we have to listen to the concerns of MU members and stand alongside them in their prayers, campaigns and practical works of service.

Wakefield Cathedral has an active Mothers Union and I have been encouraged to learn of their work supporting isolated members during the pandemic and in reaching out to support the mental health of students in a local secondary school. In Tanzania I have witnessed the strength of MU running a safe house for girls fleeing FGM and setting up nursery schools in rural villages. In Deptford, SE London, our church MU group provided a strong network of support for Nigerian women through times of bereavement and family crisis.

The Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf, in his book ‘A Public Faith’ offers these challenging words:

‘An authentic religious experience should be a world shaping force’

Mary Sumner is a clear example of someone whose religious experience has transformed the lives of others and shaped a better future. As I join the Mothers Union in thanksgiving for her life this week I want to reflect on the impact my religious experience is having on the lives of others and perhaps we might all consider how Wakefield Cathedral learns lessons from her legacy and serves the common good of our community?

With prayers and best wishes

Canon Peter

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