Mothers Union News and Reports

Eileen Proud

With sadness we learned of the death of one of our longest serving members, Eileen Proud—a great friend and worker for the MU, always cheerful and willing to have our meetings in her home. We remember her with love and give thanks for her life among us.  We will also miss Deborah Hannaford who has moved away to Totnes, to be nearer her relatives. She too had been a faithful member for several years.  

Monthly meeting 11 July at the home of Mr and Mrs Short.  As usual their garden was absolutely blooming where we sat in brilliant sunshine, enjoying a sumptuous tea. Our grateful thanks to them for their very warm hospitality.  

St Martin’s Flower Festival on 27 June was a great success, based on the musical shows through the years—such imagination and creation inspired by some church members. Thank you for a truly memorable occasion.    

May Monthly Meeting

The meeting on 9th May coincided with Ascension Day so members attended the evening Mission Community Service at St. Andrew's Kenn where Reverend Ibe Ogbonnia preached. The service was followed by refreshments and an opportunity to chat with new and old friends.

Lady Day 8th April 2013

In place of the April Monthly meeting, members were pleased to attend an afternoon eucharist service at St. Andrew's Kenn, led by Reverand Mark Bate, who joined us for tea and chat afterwards.

Commisioning Service 18th March

The Cathedral was full for the Sung Eucharist and Commissioning Service on the 18th March, when Bishop Michael commissioned for three years the new Diocesan President Bridget Vinton and all other officers and leaders in the Diocese, including our own Anne Hawken as an elected Trustee. Bishop Michael's sermon focussed on the changing times and in particular the move to redfining marriage, bearing in mind that the "The purpose of the Mothers' Union is to be specially concerned with all that stengthens and preserves marriage and Christian family life". He concluded by encouraging members to continue in their work.

(see full transcription of sermon below)

Bishop Michael’s Sermon from the MU Commissioning Service Exeter Cathedral 18 Mar 2013 

It is good to be with you today to commission your new Diocesan President.  Bridget is the fourth person to hold that office during my time as Bishop of Exeter and I would like to begin by paying tribute, and giving thanks, to each of those who have served as Diocesan President of over the past 13 years.  Marigold, Chloe and Mary have all given devoted service and thoughtful leadership to this organisation during a time of enormous cultural and societal change, with major implications for marriage, motherhood and family life.  And this is a process which does not appear to be slowing down

Our society is in the midst of a number of very serious debates about marriage at the present time.  There are, of course, questions about same sex unions and marriage.  There are questions around the frequency of marriage breakdown and the pain caused to all concerned.  There are questions around the support for marriage and family life through the tax system.  There are questions around forced marriages in some sections of the community.  There are questions around the renewal of marriages which have run dry of life.  There are questions around the wedding industry and the ramping up of the cost of weddings so they become unaffordable.  There are questions around the presentation of marriage in endless romantic comedies as being basically an experience of happy ever after.

And in the midst of it all there are those who would want to see marriage as simply a cultural construct, family life as something capable of taking almost any form you might dream up for it, and motherhood both a lifestyle choice and a human right.

As Christians, we have to take a different view.   The Scriptures from beginning to end give us a vision of marriage as integral to God’s vision for creation, and God’s gift.  Here is a relationship of one man and one woman who commit themselves to each other in love throughout their lives publicly before family and friends and their wider society.  That relationship is a relationship of equals; founded on mutual respect and a pledged commitment which is deeper and longer lasting than feeling and emotion, though the emotional bonds of love are there.  It is understood as still the best environment in which children may be reared in security and love.

But now, we are faced with proposals that would deeply undermine the understanding of marriage that has been shared by the English Church and State for as long as both have existed. In bringing them forward the Secretary of State for Culture, Maria Miller has spoken of how marriage has evolved through human history. And it has; but one thing and one thing only has remained constant: its application to the union of a man and a woman.  There have been many other restrictions on marriage which have varied between times and place with different laws relating to age of consent, number of permitted spouses, termination and what is allowed or prohibited or allowed between members of the same family group. What has remained constant is an understanding that marriage is between male and female, based on the complementarity of sexes. 

The very concept of marriage in all times and all cultures is founded on the premise of sexual difference and the potential procreation that this brings with it.  Without this there would be no life on this planet, no human beings, no future. Marriage as a vehicle for the ordered bringing together of complimentary sexes has thus been seen as something absolutely fundamental to the health of any society.  With this as the unchanging basis, marriage may take, and has taken, many forms, and there have been variations on what has been stressed in its purposes and outworking. The Christian tradition, in an understanding that has hitherto also informed English Law, speaks of sexual union, the sharing of worldly goods, the help and comfort of one for the other, and the procreation and nurture of children.  But none of these, on their own, has been understood to constitute marriage.  Indeed each of these worthy objectives may be found embodied in other legal arrangements.  An agreement to share goods may be a valid contract but is not marriage.  Never has each and every sexual union been taken to, of itself, constitute marriage.  Family units with children can exist and have always done so, outside of the bonds that are recognized as marriage.  And quite clearly there are many forms of human relationship for the support and encouragement of mutual love and comfort, but which are not marriage.  Yet it is this that now for the first time the Government seems proposing to make the one and only definition of marriage – a voluntary union for mutual love and comfort arbitrarily confined to just two non-related human beings.

Everywhere and always marriage has been founded on the union in difference of male and female.  To say this is not to denigrate love between persons of the same sex, and their desire to offer mutual help and comfort to one another.  From a Christian perspective the God of love can be present in every true love. Many societies and faith traditions have had arrangements that affirmed this, but none of them have been regarded as marriage. So, the issue not one of ‘gay rights’ but of a fundamental truth of our humanity which is male and female, not androgynous or hermaphrodite, in which a ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex is impossible because it seeks to cut loose marriage from its grounding in our biological life.

It was the non-religious, humanist philosopher, Bertrand Russell, who observed: But for children there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex . . . it is through children alone that sexual relations become important to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution’

And central to that observation is the importance of Motherhood and mothers.  Quite simply – no mother, no child. And it is because of this centrality, and importance of motherhood and mothering, that the word that the Prayer Book uses for Marriage – Holy Matrimony - has its roots in two Latin words: matris munus, meaning “the office of mother."  No motherhood, no marriage.  This is not to say that in each and every individual marriage there will be children.  In many and for different reasons there will not.  But in terms of the institution of marriage as a whole, without reference to the concept of mothering the concept of marriage itself become barren and will eventually die.

The Church remains firmly committed to upholding and protecting what has been so precious a part of our social fabric for so long – the life long union of one man to one woman to the exclusion of all others for the procreation and nurture of the generations to come.  And it is, of course, the whole Church which shares this responsibility to support the institution of marriage between a man and a woman as part of the God-given ordering of human life, blessed and affirmed by Jesus Christ.  More than ever do we need, at the present time, a steady, faithful, compassionate exploration of the Christian understanding of marriage, of what marriage offers and the gift of Christian marriage to the whole of our society. 

But within this general calling for the whole Church, there is a very particular calling to you, the members of the Mothers’ Union.   In the original vision of Mary Sumner, this organisation was called and chosen into being, as a support for motherhood and family life, and to witness to the values and responsibilities of Holy Matrimony for the Common Good.  That vocation – that being called and chosen for this purpose – continues to hold good today.

And there is so much evidence that in so many ways that this is a calling that is being taken very seriously indeed. The modern Mothers’ Unionhas a range and depth of work that far exceeds Mary Sumner’s original vision of a circle of prayer upholding family life; it now has four million members in 83 countries. I have seen for myself in Africa and the South Pacific, just how good it is in continuing to develop programmes that provide practical skills and information over a whole range of issues affecting the rearing of children and the management of the household and family life.  In many countries it is the MU which is at the forefront of advocating progressive policies to improve the lot of women and children, whilst at the same time upholding families affected by poverty, homelessness, imprisonment, relationship break-down and prison sentences. Advocating for women at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, Literacy programmes in Africa, Away From It All holidays in the UK, all highlight this concern to support and underpin marriage, motherhood and family life which ahs been your vocation all along.

Yet prayer also continues to be at the heart of you witness, particularly as in the Wave of Prayer you maintain a constant chain of intercession across global membership.

There may be times, as you reflect on a membership in the UK today which seems to be getting older, and with more grandmothers than mothers (although don’t forget that historically grandmothers have played an enormously important role in shaping and supporting family life), it may be that you are tempted to become down hearted.  But let me encourage you not to be.  You have been called and chose for a purpose, and that purpose remains as noble and relevant today as it ever has been in the past.  So through your prayers, through your practical action, and most of all through your personal witness may you continue to support and encourage that precious gift which is given to the world in marriage, motherhood and family life.

So, to that end my prayer for you all here is at one with that of St Paul in that lovely passage that you chose for our first reading today.  It is:  that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of our Lord, as you bear fruit and please him in every way.”
































Col 1.9-20


9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s* will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled* you* to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.*


The Supremacy of Christ


15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in* him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in* him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.






Make a Mother's Day 

As a Mothering Sunday gift from branch members to members overseas, £65 was collected. This was shared between schemes 'Shine a Light' emergency water, food and shelter for people affected by disasters; 'Expand a Mind' literacy and finance skills to help people start their own business; and 'Unlock their Potential' sharing skills to keep healthy, work the land and promote family life.

Monthly Meeting March 2013

Mrs Gudrun Thomas, an experienced Primary School Teacher, spoke of her current work as a full-time Children & Families Worker for Alphington Church. She gave a very useful insight into her monthly sessions on 'Messy Church' at Alphington and Ide, as well as her work with both primary schools. 'Messy Church' is now an international brand name, and the format of some craft work, an informal service, and snack, tea or meal is proving very sucessful in encouraging families into church. Thanks to Jane Bell for her kind hospitality.

Some 12 members attended the Diocesan Triennial Commissioning Service, at 10.30 a.m. on Monday 18th March 2013 at Exeter Cathedral.

Deanery Epiphany Service at St.Andrew's Monday 7th January 2013

It was with joy that Kenn Branch welcomed our Deanery Members to St. Andrew's for an uplifting service, led by Canon Ken Parry. Afterwards, over a sumptuous tea, we were able to exchange views and gossip with our friends from neighbouring villages. This was our only meeting in January.

The Installation of New Members

2012 saw a welcome increase in our numbers. On 5th December, our friends at St. Martin's warmly welcomed us to the Corporate Communion Service, when Father John Williams enrolled Cissie Amos, Kathleen Rawlinson and Pam Wilkie as members, with Barbara Clews returning, having joined some years previously.

New members (male and female) are always welcome. Whu not attend a meeting - you might even like us enough to join! Contact Anne Hawken -01392 832797.

Monthly Meeting December 2012

Our last monthly meeting of 2012 was held at the home of Mrs. Jane Bell, to whom we are indebted for her kind Christmas hospitality. Mrs Mary Moore gave her usual vibrant and invigorating talk, this time on Iona. Mary is one of our most popular Speakers and we hope to welcome her in 2013.

Kenn Deanery Open Meeting 9th November

This was well attended at the M.U.Centre, St. Sidwell's Exeter where Branch members gave their reports which helped us to know what was happening in our neighbouring villages. Following Midday Prayers a most interesting talk was given on the wonderful work undertaken by the Street Pastors in Exeter Clubland at week ends enabling many young folk to arrive home safely after their night out.

Monthly Meeting 8th November 2012

Members were asked to provide a childhood photo of themselves which were passsed around and attempts were made to identify the owner. This did cause some amusement as after 60 years or so very few were recognisable!! A DVD was then shown on the work of M.U. in Melanesia and much appreciated. Mrs Anne Hawken was warmly thanked for her kind hospitality.

Exeter Diocese Autumn Council Meeting - Agenda "The Seeds we Sow"

Following the opening Prayers andArchdeaconry Presidents welcome the minutes of the last Council meeting were read and signed as a correct record followed with matters arising.The officers then gave their reports with Midday Prayers led by Dioacesan Members. After lunch the Canterbury Provincial President, Felicity Hawke enlightened us with her "Vision for the Future" Altogether a most interesting and fulfilling meeting.

The Meeting on 11th October

Was held at Bridge House, Kennford, by kind invitation of Mrs Joan Richardson and was extremely well supported. Mrs Nicky Johnson gave a greatly amusing talk entitled "The Ramblings of a Vicar's Wife", which covered her family's life in nine moves across the country, through poor and wealthy parishes as diverse as Southwark, rural parishes, Wimbourne Minster, and a deprived area near Manchester. With three daughters and pets, they were never more than eight years in one place, and had to deal with the vagaries of very different housing, from ancient to modern.

Bring and Buy Sale on 13th September

We were very grateful to Mrs Eileen Proud for allowing us the use of her forecourt for this event. Thanks are also due to the school staff, the mothers of the pupils and,of course, the villages who supported us to raise funds for the work of the Mothers' Union.

The Wheels Appeal Fete

This was held on Wednesday 8th August in the grounds of the MU Centre ay St. Sidwells, Exeter. It was a happy afternoon and the stalls were quite busy.

The moneys raised will go towards travel grants for MU Community Development Coordinators overseas, who have to travel great distances to visit isolated families and communities to offer training and advice.

The Annual Tea Party 12th July

As usual Mr & Mrs Short delighted us with a viewing of their lovely garden, whilst Mrs. Bridget Vinton gave us an inspiring talk about the projects supported by Mothers Union members.

Splash for Cash 9th July

Splash for Cash raised £1049 for Mothers Union Funds. What a great effort by our Deanery.


Meeting on 10th May

Mrs Patricia Stokes spoke eloquently on this year's MU theme. Your Gift-discover and celebrate, based on the Parable of the Talents in the Gospels. This helped members to appreciate the talents that they have. Mrs. Sarah Baker was thanked for allowing the meeting to be held at her home.

The Spring Council of Exeter Diocese Mothers' Union

This was held on 9th May in Speyton Village Hall. The hall was crowded for this very important meeting. We needed to elect a new Diocesan President to take over from Mary Steer, who has served the MU so faithfully over the past six years.

The result were announced: Mrs Bridget Vinton will be the new president.

The officers read their reports, enabling everyone to keep up with the work of the MU throughout the Diocese.

After the lunch break Mrs Katy Drew gave us a wonderful insight into her work for the MU in the Solomon Islands. She had spent three months there with her husband and two children.

1st May meeting at St.Gregory's Church Dawlish.

Several of our members were pleased to hear the Rev's James Parkes talking about the wonderful works of Tear Fund, the Christian relief organisation for which he works. He also showed a film which demonstrated how Water Aid helps to produce this much needed resource which we all take for granted but others struggle to get enough of.

The World Wide Wave of Prayer

......was celebrated on Good Friday at the home of Jane Bell whom we warmley thanked for her kind hospitality. The meeting reflected the great fellowship which exists among members with our own branch and, more, reaches out to embrace the eighty one branches which are overseas.

Cathedral Prayers

.....were recently led by members from the Cadbury and Kenn branches, providing a quiet spiritual oasis within a busy schedule.


Monthly Meeting 8th March

During our prayers, we remembered Veronica Doxat-Pratt who sadly passed away recently. Our thoughts and prayers are with Denys and the family.

Our speaker, The Reverand Anne Howman, then transported us to the Good Friday scene and the Cross during a most peaceful meditation. The prayerful silence she introduced was a time to treasure and we are greatly indebted to her for taking us on a truly Christian journey. Our thanks to Joan Richardson for her kind hospitality.

Monthly Meeting 9th February

"NATIONAL MARRIAGE WEEK" was our theme this month and members warmly welcomed Reverend John Williams who spoke about "Wedding Arrangements in the Parish." The many couples he has guided before and through their marriage ceremony is a most important role which he undertakes with great sincerity and understanding and this became clear to us during his most interesting talk. The overwhelming importance of family life within the social structure of society is the basis on which the Mothers' Union works and applies not only in this country but worldwide. Miss Freda Gravestock was sincerely thanked for her very kind hospitality.

Make a Mother's Day

Mother's Unuion members are being encouraged to 'give an ethical gift for this Mothering Sunday, 18th March, and change a life'. At the February meeting £40 was collected, which will help mothers learn vital financial skills - skills that are helping to change lives.