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Worldwide President’s Reflections on Visit to Chichester Diocese

The day arrived and I was bubbling over with excitement as I travelled on the train from Victoria to Chichester.  I had never been to Chichester, but I felt I knew members of the Mothers’ Union already because they were always on social media, posting good news about the impact of their amazing work and the changes they make to families and communities.

28 Oct 2019

I came out of the station and there they were - the same faces that I was used to seeing on social media and guess what?  Diocesan President Kathryn Anderson was sporting her blue and white Mothers’ Union uniform.  What more could I have asked for?  Mothers’ Union is visible even at the train station.

There is always something about a Mothers’ Union welcome that is lasting, the geographical location does not matter because it is the same all over the world.  I still remember the warmth of their embrace and the welcoming sisterly smiles which reminded me that regardless of where you are in the world, a Mothers’ Union welcome is always sincere, lasting and filled with a special kind of love.  It did not end there because I was led to car where I met a Mothers’ Union husband, Andy Anderson who had given his time to ensure we were driven safely and on time to each destination.  His enthusiasm and generosity were similar to other Mothers’ Union husbands I had met, and I ask you to join me in thanking them all as we cannot do all we do without them.

Our first stop was St. Peter’s Mothers’ Union Branch where the Spring Fair was in progress.  I met so many key members there including the Prison’s Coordinator, District Chair, Chichester Trustees, Parents’ Group Coordinator, and the mother-daughter team Jill and Vera from Selsey Branch.  I viewed items on the Mothers’ Union stall for sale to raise much needed funds for their work.  The Vicar, Father Andy, was high in praise of Mothers’ Union and very supportive of their work in his Church.  I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship with members on that warm sunny day in May.

My next stop was the AFIA Caravan in Selsey.  I had read so much about these caravans and so I was excited to actually visit one on site.  It is a beauty and well maintained too.  It was a blessing to see a family enjoying a much needed holiday.  We prayed right there on the spot that God would bless the families that stay in the caravan and for the hands that work diligently to raise funds each year to maintain this worthwhile project.  To God be the glory!
I met Canon Tim Schofield, Precentor, Chichester Cathedral who like Father Andy, was high in praise for the work of Mothers’ Union.  It was wonderful to sit in the Cathedral with the Chichester Diocesan President and Trustees at Evening Prayer.  The quietness of the evening added to the serenity of the proceedings.  We ended the evening with the most delicious home cooked meal prepared by Vice President Michele and her husband Ron.  The perfect end to a very successful day in the company of a dynamic group of Trustees filled with passion for their ministry.

Day 2 of my tour began by visiting the Ministry of Cake at Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath and an opportunity to meet members in the chapel.  A successful ministry as cake is lovingly baked, wrapped and labelled by Branch Leader Rosemary and her team for staff and visitors to the special unit for babies.  I fought back the tears as I realised that the cake was only a very small part of the ministry taking place there, as Canon Joanna, Rosemary and members make themselves available to the parents whose babies are required to stay in hospital longer than is normal, or for those who do not make it.  I met a couple whose twins had been in hospital for 4 weeks and had not been discharged as yet.  Mum was attentively nursing one twin and Dad was gently cuddling the other.  As I approached them, he said, ‘I should be at work today, but I had the feeling that it was important for me to be here with my babies and supporting my wife.’  He was young yet the sincerity in his voice was clear that he understood his role as a father.  The chapel was filled with members and I met another parent and her son who were happy for Mothers’ Union.  The Chaplain, Canon Joanna and Branch Leader Rosemary who started this ministry explained that not only do parents come to the chapel for prayer and a listening ear, but the doctors and nurses too, especially after caring for a baby that does not make it.  Indeed, I was deeply touched by all that took place so quietly in the Princess Royal Hospital.  It really is important to have a safe place for individuals to be listened to as they share burdens, and to feel God’s presence and comfort in times of need.  I also saw the members use their gift of knitting to make items for use by patients including persons with dementia.  Members also prepared care packs and hygiene kits that are welcomed by the staff and parents.  Congratulations to all who contributed to the gift of the fluorescent orange neo-natal stethoscopes for the baby unit – an essential and worthwhile gift that helps the nurses hear the babies’ heartbeat better.

Onward we rolled to Haywards Heath Methodist Church where I met the Rural Dean, a very strong supporter of Mothers’ Union, interacted with members, addressed them and admitted a new member.  Becky, I pray that God will continue to give you the wisdom as you bring up your children and serve him through the ministry of Mothers’ Union.  May you always be blessed with God’s peace and joy each day.
It would be remiss of me if I did not make mention of your sewing machines and the huge difference they are making to the lives of young, single mothers in Rwanda.  I was not able to visit the Diocese of Cyangugu where you donated to, but I visited a nearby community and witnessed the transformation that three sewing machines made to lives of young women in that community.  This is truly a blessing!
My sincere thanks to Diocesan President Kathryn, her husband Andy, all Trustees, Branch Leaders and members of Chichester Diocese for making my visit a memorable one.  As I pray for God’s blessings to sustain your work and for new and innovative ways to grow your membership, I shall also pray for young members like Hayley, that you will nurture and prepare them for future leadership in Mothers’ Union.  
Chichester is certainly Mothers’ Union in action!  Women of amazing faith giving hope, life and a future.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favour and give you his peace.  Numbers 6:24-26

With my love and prayers

Sheran Harper
Worldwide President

Sourced from the Chichester link

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