Photo Credit: Church of Ireland
Both Church of Ireland Archbishops took part in the All–Ireland Triennial Thanksgiving Service of the Mothers’ Union (MU) this month at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. The highlight of the service was the dedication of a stained glass plaque commissioned to celebrate 130 years of the MU in the island of Ireland last year. The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, led the service; and the sermon was preached by the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, the Primate of the Church of Ireland.
The stained glass plaque features a tree with 13 branches, representing the 13 decades of MU in Ireland. It echoes an initiative that took place year to mark the anniversary: the planting of 12 trees across Ireland, one in each diocese. The new piece which has been placed in the Laurence O’Toole / Mothers’ Union Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral.
There had been many changes in Ireland since the last Triennial Thanksgiving Service, Archbishop Richard said. He referenced changes to laws on marriage and abortion, and “the dreaded ‘b’ word” – Brexit (the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union). He said that politicians, different generations, communities and even families were divided by the Brexit process.
“So if the Church as a whole does not understand what is going on around us, then we must sink into irrelevance”, he said. “And the same applies to us here today.”
He said that giving thanks for the companionship and Christian witness that the MU provided could not be taken for granted and pointed to the MU’s foundation in prayer. However, he said that the MU also had a vital role to play in ensuring that people in Ireland did not become complacent about systemic injustice, gender–based violence and the exploitation of women and children.
“Mothers’ Union has reminded all of us that gender–based violence is always in our midst”, he said. “Mothers’ Union has worked to make us more aware, more conscious and more alert and for this we give thanks. . . Mothers’ Union has much to offer in this chaotic world. To you it may seem insignificant but nothing is insignificant when it is touched by Christ.”
He added: “Mothers’ Union cares about families. Mothers’ Union cares about justice for women and children and you help the church to explore these moral issues. . . You bring a different perspective which can enable the wider church to act with compassion and give a wider dimension to thinking.
“Mothers’ Union is about the totality of the family and the family in joy but equally the family in pain, the family in need, the family faced with the pain of letting someone go. Please be ready to help the rest of us make good judgements about complex issues.”
He concluded his sermon with the personal prayer of Mary Sumner – the founder of the MU. “All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for thee; and every life I touch, do thou by thy spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayer I breathe, or the life I live.”