Passionate Prayer and Transformative Projects

by Gerry Lynch last modified 18 Aug, 2014 10:12 AM

Mothers' Union members from across the Diocese gather in South Wilts to meet their Worldwide President.

Mothers’ Union members from across the Diocese gathered in Wilton yesterday [28 July 2014] to meet their Worldwide President, Lynne Tembey. A day of sharing, praying and eating together culminated in a packed service of celebration and Mega Wave of Prayer in the Wiltshire town’s stunning Italianate Church. 

Mothers’ Union is an international organisation of Anglicans rooted in prayer, not all of whom are mothers and some of whom are men. It has 4.1 million members in 83 countries worldwide, with a particularly large number of members in Africa. Its aim is of a world where God’s love is shown through loving, respectful and flourishing relationships. 

Locally, it has 1700 members in 80 branches across the Diocese. Diocesan President, Ann Howard, described the activities it is involved in. 

“Probably the most important thing we do is pray – we pray lots and, for some of our older members, that is now the one Christian ministry they undertake. But we also do some direct project work, particularly aimed at supporting children and family life. 

“We support four women’s refuges across the Diocese. We take 25 families on holiday to Sidmouth every year who otherwise couldn’t afford it, and we also have a caravan available at a very low rent for families who could not afford commercial holiday accommodation. 

“With a number of prisons in the Diocese, our members play a significant role in supporting the families of prisoners when they visit, and helping the men buy Christmas presents for their children. 

“Members also do significant fundraising for projects overseas working on growth, literacy, family financial planning, and church community mobilisation in Australia, Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya. 

“’Virtual Baby’ is our latest project, which sees members taking sophisticated computerised 'babies' into schools. Young people experience the needs of caring for a baby for a weekend followed by discussion about parenting choices. Members equip and maintain the babies for the programme as well as delivering the lessons with the young people.” 

Worldwide President, Lynne Tembey, is a native and resident of Cumbria, where her husband is parish priest for a group of seven churches in the deep countryside in the West of the county, a situation which will be familiar to many in the Diocese of Salisbury. 

“I joined the MU 35 years ago”, says Lynne, “after the Branch Leader knocked on my door on the night of my first branch meeting, and said, ‘It’s always difficult to walk through that door the first time, come with me.’ I think there’s a lesson there for all members.”

Although it has a very young membership in other parts of the world, the perception of the MU in the Church of England is that it is an ageing organisation with a dated and staid image. Is that fair? Why should a woman who is already juggling her working life with bringing up kids struggle to find space in a crowded schedule for MU activities? Lynne’s answer is clear.

“I think nearly every young working woman would support our aims and objectives – care and support for marriage and family life, protection of children, and help for those whose family life has met with adversity.

“I’d ask young Christians who are potential members to reflect on what Mother’s Union can do for you – it’ll change your life. We are already involved in changing lives in nearly every community in Britain and Ireland.

“Getting involved doesn’t mean you need to go to a branch meeting at a fixed time every week. That means there’s also a need for existing members to think carefully about how they can encourage and engage with potential younger members.”

A majority of Mothers’ Union members are in developing countries, so one presumes being a Worldwide President involves lots of travel to Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

“I’ve been to Barbados, Madagascar, Kenya and Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the 19 months I’ve been President,” explains Lynne, “Each one of them has been amazing.

“When I went to Barbados, people said ‘aren’t you the lucky one’ – but I saw the real Barbados with plenty of poverty and challenges, not just the Barbados you see on the glossy tourist brochures. It has been an inspiration, privilege and blessing to see these wonderful parts of God’s creation.”

Learn more about the work of the Mothers' Union in the Diocese by visiting their website.

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