More than four hundred people crammed into Christ Church, in Strabane, recently for the Mothers’ Union Derry and Raphoe Festival Service, which celebrated 130 years of Mothers’ Union in Ireland.
The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good officiated at the event, along with the Bishop’s Curate in Camus-Juxta-Mourne, Rev Mark Lennox, who led the worship.
The Chaplain of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union, Rev Canon Harold Given, also took part in the service.
During the service, the Diocesan President of Mothers’ Union, Mary Good, presented Canon Given with a basket of items including a trauma teddy, a neo-natal knit, a Bible, a purple and yellow ribbon and a Foyle Child Contact Centre leaflet as symbols of initiatives that Mothers’ Union had undertaken in the diocese and beyond.
The address was given by a former Worldwide President and Derry and Raphoe Diocesan President of Mothers’ Union, Lady Christine Eames.
Lady Eames paid tribute to the Mothers’ Union’s founder, Mary Sumner, who she said was “far ahead of her time” – and to Annabelle Hayes who brought the Mothers’ Union to Ireland.
Lady Eames said they could all do something to put faith into action. “It doesn’t have to be very big. It doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to be a great big project.
“Projects that touch you and me can be just small, simple things: asking someone lonely to our own homes for a cup of coffee, a cup of tea; not being impatient in a supermarket when the person in front of us seems to go on and on talking to the girl at the check-out.”
She added: “Faith in action doesn’t have to be about great big actions but those actions are rooted and grounded in our faith”.
During Wednesday evening’s service, Bishop Good commissioned seven members to office in the Mothers’ Union, including three vice-presidents: Kay Clarke, Elsie Stewart and Jean Thompson.
“This is a joyful and important occasion,” the Bishop said. “Each office carries great responsibility, for the Mothers’ Union is a worldwide society within the church with special concern for all that strengthens and preserves marriage and Christian and family life.”
The service was a colourful affair, with banners from more than 30 local branches paraded into Christ Church at the beginning of the service and out of the church again after it had ended.
In between, members prayed – among other things – for all those who had been affected by hurricane Irma in the Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and southern states of the USA.
They prayed, too, for the people and parishes in Derry and Raphoe that had been affected by the recent flooding.
The Festival Service was a special occasion in more ways than one: the MU Diocesan choir performed publicly for the first time, conducted by Jacqui Armstrong and accompanied by May Boyd on the piano. Music was also provided by the Britannia Concert Band, under the baton of Stewart Smith.
After the service, members of the congregation repaired to the adjoining parish hall for refreshments. Lady Eames and Bishop Good cut a cake which had been baked specially to mark the occasion. Mrs Good recapped on an active and successful year for the Diocesan MU.
The Worldwide and Irish presidents, Mrs Lynne Tembey and Mrs Phyllis Grothier, had both visited the Diocese for the MU Way service in May, and members had also taken part in five Agape meals in various parts of the diocese in the earlier part of the year.