The Mothers’ Union Annual Gathering 2021 was held as a virtual event on Saturday 25 September, streaming on YouTube Premiere.
Drawing on our 2021 theme of ‘Rebuilding Hope and Confidence’, this event was a celebration of what we have achieved over the past year and an opportunity to look forward to the future and the new triennium.
The programme included an address from our Worldwide President, Sheran Harper and our CEO, Bev Jullien, as well as a financial update and a range of inspiring and informative contributions from members across Britain & Ireland and beyond.
The virtual Annual Gathering, was spread over two parts, with Midday Prayers led by Bishop Emma finishing the first part. Both parts are now available on YouTube, with chapter timestamps for your viewing convenience. We really hope you enjoy watching these events, please use the following links to watch sections:
This month it was a joy to welcome Ephena Matthew the Diocesan President of Antigua. She made me very welcome when I was lucky enough to visit Antigua in early 2020.
She stayed with me for a week and brought glorious Antiguan sunshine with her. It was a busy week of MU and church activity, and many people were able to meet her. We had a meeting of Deanery leaders and representatives at my house. It was a joy to be able to meet face to face and share a buffet meal and lots of ideas, as people start to worship and meet together again.
We were able to attend the wonderful service at Werrington church celebrating 100 years. Bishop John presided and Revd. Deborah, our chaplain, coordinated the prayers and offering of symbols of thanks. Jennie Edis gave a wonderful summary of MU activity. The branch and deanery had worked very hard to put on a wonderful celebration. We processed our MU banners, and of course enjoyed a wonderful spread of hospitality.
There were also opportunities to meet Ephena over a coffee at the Falcon, and sharing meals with friends. On the Saturday after attending a Eucharist together we walked nearly 15kms as part of the ride and stride. This involved walking across the fields between churches. The week ended with attendance together at our Harvest service.
In a card of thanks she writes “Thankyou and your family for opening your hearts and home to me. Your kindness has made a great difference to my life. Thankyou also for your fiends and MU sisters for involving me in so many events. I enjoyed every moment!”
Ephena has become a great friend and inspiration as a woman of faith and action. I give thanks for her, and the worldwide mission and ministry of MU.
Jill Cannings, Diocesan President
Due to the pandemic restrictions, we have been unable to meet for Forum and share in a church service as is our custom.
Please join us in this service specially recorded for this occasion featuring Jill Cannings, our Diocesan President, Rev. Deborah Marsh, our Diocesan Chaplain, Nat Stiles, and the choir of Uppingham Church. Please click here to download the accompanying service sheet.
To mark her 70th birthday Jill came up with the idea of a walking 70kms on a Prayer Pilgrimage. She identified a 2 week period in July 2019 and Deaneries planned walks. On the first day we were sent off with prayer by the Vice Dean from Peterborough Cathedral. Numerous supporters turned up to see us off. Each day Jill walked with various people. We visited St Botolfs and were treated to refreshments and prayers led by Rev’d Barbara. This was the pattern most days. That day we also visited St Paul’s church, and Paston and Werrington branches.
Day two involved some challenging field walks around the churches in Rutland deanery led by Rev’d Deborah Marsh. We were welcomed by various church members and wardens. They no longer have MU branches, but many still have banners. After covering 11kms on foot we covered the final two churches by car, and ended by joining others in evening prayer in Whissendine.
Next stop was organized by Kettering deanery and again involved some challenging cross country terrain. We started by joining the regular weekday Eucharist. After coffee we walked to Thorpe Malsor for prayer and lunch. We were joined by other supporters. Then to Loddington and Orton for prayer, and finally a very splendid tea back in Rushden.
At the end of the first week Jill started in her own church in Uppingham and was sent off with prayer from the Eucharist. Today she was joined by other members and two miniature Dachshunds. We prayed in Lyddington and Bisbrooke churches and then returned to Uppingham on the field route.
Week two started at St Peter’s Weston Favell where we prayed with the Vicar David Kirby and a Curate who had just started that day. We walked again with the little dogs and my grandchildren and another young friend. We called at Abbington church and were met by many members. We visited Christchurch to pray and stopped for lunch at St Alban the Martyr.
On Tuesday we were in Wellingborough, greeted by members from All Hallows and All Saints. Several people walked with us at the start and we prayed for the planned homeless shelter. An intrepid few set off along the river, but the going was very hard as the path disintegrated. However, we eventually arrived at St Mary’s Wollaston for prayer, and then a splendid garden party nearby.
On Wednesday we ventured to the south of the Diocese. We started with a service at Helmdon church and then walked with local members to the Millponds where we prayed and sang. We finished with a wonderful tea joined by several others.
On Thursday 18th July we did 7.09 kms leaving from St Mary’s Higham Ferrers. In the church we processed behind the branch banner and sang. We walked to Irthlingborough via lanes and the gravel pit lakes. Again we prayed. We completed our day in Finedon with another wonderful spread of cakes. The Rector, Richard Coles led us in prayer and song.
The summary statistics were
Distance walked 71.90 kms (how accurate is our great and glorious God!)
8 areas over 10days
31 churches visited and prayed in
22 branches visited, often with catering
Met and prayed with 18 clergy
Attended 4 services
Walked with too many to count, including 6 dogs and 3 children
Most importantly it was a real prayer pilgrimage, praying for our clergy, their churches and communities.
In May 2019 it was a great joy to welcome Mrs Sheran Harper of Guyana who is our new worldwide president. She is a woman of great faith and experience. She has led the parenting programme for MU in many countries, and thereby improved the experiences of countless children and families. She was accompanied by Provincial President Nikki Sweatman.
Representatives from Peterborough Deanery, complete with banners joined Jill Cannings, Diocesan President to greet them at Peterborough station. They were touched as the welcoming party greeted them with a worship song.
At a packed open meeting in the Methodist church in Uppingham people were able to hear from Sheran and Nikki about the work of Mothers’ Union in this country and worldwide. Speaking at Sheran’s commissioning earlier that year Archbishop Justin Welby described MU as “the world’s oldest and largest women’s movement. It is one of the Anglican communion’s greatest gifts to the worldwide church.” Sheran was challenged by him to ensure that MU no longer remained the Anglican communion’s greatest secret. She spoke with passion about her own journey of involvement in MU and the work undertaken by members.
During this brief visit we were also able to join a prayer group, the backbone of the church, as “prayer warriors” pray for aspects of church life and our communities. Our visitors heard of the role of the MU lunch club in Kettering which gives a meal and activities for children during the holidays, who would normally receive free school meals. We held a service of thanksgiving and welcome at St Benedicts Northampton. More people had the opportunity to hear from Sheran and Nikki. As part of this whistle stop tour of the Diocese they attended a branch meeting in the evening. They were both generous with their time, listening to members and thanking them for their commitment to MU.
Two days later many of us attended a major Mothers’ Union “Thy Kingdom Come” service. We filled Coventry cathedral and the service was streamed across the world.
Seeking some winter sun, and having never been to the West Indies, I thought I randomly chose Antigua, but have become aware that God’s hand was firmly in control. I knew that Mothers’ Union in the diocese had a link with NECA. However, I did not fully understand what that meant. In fact, it stands for North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba and spans 12 islands.
E mails from NECA were exciting but intermittent depending on the internet. The islands are in the hurricane path and indeed Barbuda was devastated in 2017. I booked my accommodation in Antigua based on thinking I could reach a few points of interest easily. Little did I realise I was near one of the best of the 365 beaches. I was also very near Nelson’s dockyard, a heritage centre, and also the finishing point for the Atlantic rowing race, which provided more interest during my stay.
As I left England, I had limited contact details for Ephena Matthew the Diocesan President. However, prayers were answered and as I waited to board the plane at Gatwick, I got all the details I needed.
The day after my arrival Ephena called round to my accommodation to welcome me. I was invited to a seafood buffet supper to meet lots of MU members and even asked to preach on the Sunday. I worshipped with them each Sunday. Services last 2 hours and you have at least 8 hymns and a good half hour sermon! I also went to a choir festival featuring 23 choirs from across the island. Great fun, but some were better than others and the pews are hard. I went to meetings and socials and found out how they are organised. As Diocesan President Ephena hops across the 12 islands. Once a month they have a MU supported Sunday service. They all wear their white dresses and blue jackets.
I also had plenty of time for relaxation, reading and reflecting in the sun. I return refreshed and inspired by experiencing first hand MU worldwide and their warm welcome and love and vibrant faith.
Jill Cannings Mothers’ Union Diocesan President
Early in October a group of Mothers’ Union members from the Diocese went to Launde Abbey, Leicestershire for spiritual refreshment and rest. Over the three days, Rev. Christine Ostler and Rev. Anne Davis led us to reflect on where God is in the daily rhythm of our lives, how to rest in his arms when the going gets tough, and how to allow God to meet our spiritual and physical needs. The following poem came out of the silence and stillness of Launde.
The Abbey, surrounded by green hills,
Where sheep walk the well worn tracks,
Steeped in prayer, the air tranquil,
In those walls, there’s nothing we lack.
Retreating from the daily round
Of Martha’s work and what we ought,
Burnt out on religion, we found
The peace and rest we all sought.
Clothed in Mary’s quiet devotion
We pondered the work and felt the beat.
His Spirit gave us inspiration
And allowed Jesus to wash our feet.
by Valerie Anslow
The members in Peterborough Diocese are all taking part in the campaign for the 16 days from November 25th – December 10th. Some branches have held vigils, some have had services using the resources from Mary Sumner House or prayer meetings and some have had displays in their churches to raise awareness.
The picture shows the prayers written by Kingsthorpe branch for women and girls around the world who are abused in any way, which were then placed on the map.
Barbara Haynes, Diocesan President.
Kingsthorpe Branch were pleased to welcome Barbara, our president, to present 50 years membership certificates to Margaret Glover and Mary Cheer at the morning service at St Mark’s Church on the 29th April. At the same service Helen Hickman was enrolled as a new member. The service was followed with cake and nibbles.
Ruth, Branch Leader