The Archbishop of Canterbury, has praised the “unique and extraordinary” work of the Mothers’ Union, as he commissioned the international Anglican mission agency’s new Worldwide President, Sheran Harper, during a service in London’s Southwark Cathedral last night (Tuesday). Sheran Harper from Guyana, the former Provincial President of the Mothers’ Union in the Province of the West Indies, is the first Worldwide President to be elected from outside the United Kingdom.
Archbishop Justin congratulated Sheran “for the trust the members have bestowed on you” and also expressed his thanks to outgoing Worldwide President Lynne Tembey for her service.
“There is only one Mothers’ Union”, he said. “It is unique. It is the world’s oldest and largest women’s movement. It is a gift of God to Anglicans and is one of the Anglican Communion’s greatest gifts to the worldwide church.”
He described its four million members as “a powerful force of hope in every aspect of the life of the worldwide Church and indeed of society” and praised its role in bringing hope and reconciliation.
“You are one of God’s great works throughout the Anglican Communion”, he said. “We delight and rejoice in what you do. You share love and hope; you give support and strength.” He urged the new Worldwide President to make the Mothers’ Union better known.
More than 600 people from around the world attended last night’s service in Southwark Cathedral. The congregation included the High Commissioner of Guyana to the UK, Fredrick Hamley Case, and a representative from the High Commission of Rwanda in London.
In addition to Archbishop Justin, the service was attended by at least four other Bishops, including the Bishop of Guyana, Charles Davidson, the Bishop at Lambeth, Tim Thornton, the Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advisor for Anglican Communion Affairs, Bishop Anthony Poggo.
“I feel overjoyed and humbled by the outpouring of love and support I have received”, Sheran Harper said. “I am so very grateful to everyone who travelled from far and wide for this special day in the history of Mothers’ Union. Thank you everyone who came and those who were unable to but were lifting me up in their prayers.
“I especially thank Archbishop Justin for his encouraging words. We are indeed a unique and extraordinary gift from God. Mothers’ Union is at a very important point in history when our Trustee Board now reflects the truly global nature of the movement. Our recent global conversations, with emerging themes are setting the tone for the future of our work which will be even stronger in meeting the needs of the communities we serve in a life-changing way.”
Referring to the readings from Romans, Archbishop Justin spoke about the simplicity of the New Testament and how, once called by God, He “takes us by the hand and takes us on the greatest adventure that there is, the adventure of Christian discipleship”, he said. “That adventure has taken Mothers’ Union from Mary Sumner in the countryside of England to a worldwide organisation on which people can depend.”
He spoke of the challenges that many Mothers’ Union members face in their work of supporting the communities in which they live and serve, “in many places you will have to bear the cross of other people’s suffering. Whether it’s in Burundi, the DRC, Guyana, South Sudan, Nigeria or in towns and cities and slums, whether it is domestic violence, whether it is loneliness, whether it is spiritual emptiness, the Mothers’ Union is there bringing hope and a future”, he said. “So, make yourselves known.”
During the service, Archbishop Justin also commissioned the Mothers’ Union’s new global Trustee Board, whose members are elected to represent Mothers’ Union regions.
The new Trustee Board comprises: Nikki Sweatman (Church of England’s Canterbury Province); Libbie Crossman (Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Australia, Melanesia, and Papua New Guinea); Canon Catherine Hilton (Church of England’s York Province); Jennifer Barton (Church in Wales); June Buter (Church of Ireland); Thembsie Mchunu (Central Africa, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, and Southern Africa); Kathleen Snow (Canada, South America, the US, and the West Indies); Roshini Mendis (Korea, Myanmar, North India, South India, Sri Lanka); Paul Hindle (Scottish Episcopal Church); Deaconess Mary Kamwati (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Jerusalem and the Middle East); and Marie-Pierrette Bezara (Burundi, Congo, Indian Ocean, Rwanda, and West Africa).
Sheran Harper was born in the UK and grew up in Guyana where she studied at the University of the West Indies School of Physical Therapy. She undertook her Clinical Practice at Guy’s Hospital in London and then worked with the Ministry of Health in Guyana where she opened and managed new physiotherapy departments in hospitals throughout the country and lectured on the Rehabilitation Therapists Programme.
She stopped working in this area 17 years ago to focus on her calling of serving Mothers’ Union. She has served as a volunteer at all levels from parish, diocese and province. Until recently, she was the Worldwide Parenting Trainer where she rolled out Mothers’ Union Parenting programmes in 23 countries across the globe. Her expertise is often called upon and she has been a spokesperson in her region for Mothers’ Union on various inter-faith, and international panels and forums.