The international Anglican mission agency Mothers’ Union has been present in Ireland for 130 years, and this week the anniversary was celebrated at a special service in Christ Church, Strabane. More than 400 people – mainly women – were present at the Derry and Raphoe Mothers’ Union Festival Service.
A former worldwide president of the Mothers’ Union, Lady Christine Eames, who is also a former Derry and Raphoe diocesan president, paid tribute to MU founder Mary Sumner and to Annabelle Hayes, who was responsible for developing the agency in the island of Ireland.
“Around the world, the global organisation is alive and thriving and bringing the Christian faith and the Christian gospel to many thousands of people in such a diversity of situations,” Lady Eames said. “When we celebrate an event such as this, where people are at the very centre of it, it’s people who are Christ’s hands and his work in this organisation.”
Lady Eames invited the congregation to think about the changes that had taken place during the history of the Mothers’ Union in Ireland, and also to the future.
“Think not even of 130 years but of five years, 10 years, think of the technology and the totally different world we live in today,” she said. “Think of the world that our grandchildren, our children, our young people inhabit with such ease, and think of how we are so stretched to meet them in that technology and in that world.
“The wars, what that meant to families, how families were disrupted, how faith was tested to its limit – all those things form the backdrop for this organisation we celebrate today”.
She continued: “What is the future for the Mothers’ Union? What is the future for it as a worldwide organisation with such diversity of membership, in such different corners of our world? What has the member in a refugee camp or a member in a camp for displaced persons got in common with you and with me, as we worship the same God in this church tonight? What unites us?”
She urged the congregation to leave the service with a commitment to put their faith in action. “It doesn’t have to be very big. It doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to be a great big project,” she said. “Projects that touch you and me can be just small, simple things: asking someone lonely to our own homes for a cup of coffee, a cup of tea; not being impatient in a supermarket when the person in front of us seems to go on and on talking to the girl at the check–out.
“Faith in action doesn’t have to be about great big actions but those actions are rooted and grounded in our faith”.
They should do so, she said, “knowing they were part of a living movement and of a living, loving church.”