The Diocese of Winchester is proud to be the place where the Mothers’ Union (MU) was started in 1876 by Mary Sumner. Mary wanted to create an organisation for women, rich and poor, which would support mothers from all walks of life as they brought up their children in Christian faith.
The History of Mothers’ Union
Those who joined the ‘Union of Mothers’ in 1876 would receive a membership card in return for making a promise: ‘to be given up, body and soul, to Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism, and that your duty is to train your children for his service’. While it started as a local movement, the idea soon spread.
In 1885, Mary delivered her first speech, when she was invited by the presiding Bishop to speak to women in Portsmouth at a packed church congress session. Mary’s speech was incredibly well received, and full of powerful messages, such as: ‘Together, by the Grace of God … we can calm each other when we are afraid; strengthen one another when we are weak; and work together to raise our children to the glory of God.’
As the movement grew, key principles were developed. These included the idea that the prosperity of a nation relies on home and family life, as well as the fact that faith is the foundation of family life.
Mothers’ Union Today
Today’s Mothers’ Union is an international Christian membership movement, working in 84 countries with over 4 million members. Still with a strong focus on families, the MU supports families and communities in need, both within the UK and across the globe. Members work to end violence, poverty, and injustice, while offering Christian care and support.
As a registered charity the MU have campaigned at local, national and international levels to bring about real change, primarily focusing on family life, the protection of children, and women’s and girls’ rights.
In addition to this, the Mothers’ Union provide access to a large collection of practical and religious resources. They also produce regular publications to keep UK members informed and up to date regarding their work and the areas that still need support.
Despite the name of the organisation, the Mothers’ Union does not limit its membership to mothers. They are a thoroughly inclusive organisation and are proud to have a growing number of men who have joined their ranks.
Faith and Prayer
At the heart of the MU is Christian faith, with prayer and worship central to their work. The Mothers’ Union believe that prayer can be transformative, making a significant difference to lives on an individual and community basis. The MU prayer can be found below:
Loving Lord, We thank you for your love so freely given to us all. We pray for families around the world. Bless the work of the Mothers' Union as we seek to share your love through the encouragement, strengthening and support of marriage and family life. Empowered by your Spirit, may we be united in prayer and worship, and in love and service reach out as your hands across the world. In Jesus' name. Amen
In addition to prayer, the Mothers’ Union work with churches across the world, support clergy with their faith and worship resources, and offer practical help in communities, such as supporting baptismal families. They also have a network of diocesan chaplains who both support the faith of their members, and act as a link between the Church and the MU.
Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Winchester
The Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Winchester seek to follow Mary Sumner’s vision to support families in caring for their members, and to campaign for a fairer world. This vision is just as relevant now as it was 140 years ago.
Within our diocese, the MU has over 750 members, who are active in their communities. They not only help with diocesan initiatives, their groups also run their own projects, as well as meet for worship and fellowship on a regular basis. Their work includes:
- Running holidays for families in need of a break each August, Child Contact Centres where separated parents can spend time with their children, and Quiet Days to support their communities in prayer
- Campaigning on family issues, including against gender-based violence
- Helping with preparation for marriage and baptism in local parishes
- Organising groups for parents, especially new parents
- Running cafes for those suffering from dementia and their families
- Working with prisoners in Winchester prison, with refugees and with the homeless, and those in refuges
For those looking to join the Diocese of Winchester MU, you can enjoy the fellowship of one of their groups, get involved with one of their projects or join a campaign. You can find more information about the Diocese of Winchester Mothers’ Union on their website.