Magheragall Parish Mothers’ Union celebrates 80 years!

On Sunday 8th January at 3pm we hosted a very special service. It was our branch’s 80th Anniversary Service celebrating the 80 years of our Mothers’ Union branch’s existence since 1942. Our branch was officially started by Mrs McCallin, the Rector’s wife at the time, on 1st May 1942.

Our service of celebration was led by our Rector, Revd. Nicholas J. Dark assisted by Mr John Williams, our Lay Reader and Mr Trevor Lunn, our organist. Much of our practical work within MU was displayed in our church windows including washbags for hospitals and Women’s Refuge; knitted items for Neo-natal wards in the Belfast hospitals and examples of our Christmas hampers which through the support of our local Lisburn Barnardo’s branch are donated to local families.

We had many guests attending from neighbouring parish MU branches. Everyone was extremely welcome. Our special guests were Mrs Sally Cotter, Connor Diocesan President and Mrs Margaret Nelson, Area Chairperson for Lisburn and Derriaghy MU branches.

We sang many celebratory hymns of thanksgiving including ‘Praise, my soul, the King of heaven’, ‘Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord’ and ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’. Our Old Testament reading, Psalm 150 was read by Mrs Margaret Nelson and our New Testament reading, Philippians 1 v.2-6 , 9-11 was read by our Branch Chairperson, Mrs Bronwen Dark. As MU members, we reaffirmed our commitment to Mothers’ Union.
Mrs Sally Cotter, our Diocesan President very kindly spoke to us at the service. She spoke of the beginnings of the Mothers’ Union movement in the UK as well as in Ireland. We learnt a short history of the MU, about the two key founders, Mary Sumner in England, and Annabella Hayes in Ireland.

The Mothers’ Union movement began in 1876. Mary Sumner (born in 1828), the wife of Revd. George Sumner, Rector of Old Arlesford, Hampshire, set up a group to support mothers of all kinds in bringing up their children. In 1876, when her eldest daughter Margaret gave birth, Mary Sumner felt it would be beneficial for young mothers in the parish to be offered support. She reflected on the importance of motherhood and envisaged calling women of all social classes to support one another.

Mothers’ Union was founded in Raheny, Dublin in 1887 by Mrs Annabella Hayes who was born in Dublin in 1847. In December 1866 she married the Reverend Francis Carlisle Hayes who was then curate in Sandford Parish Church, Dublin. Annabella Hayes set up the first branch of the Mothers’ Union in Raheny, inspired by what Mary Sumner had done in England eleven years before. Little did either of them know that in the twenty-first century, world-wide membership of Mothers Union would have grown to over four million.

Our Anniversary service continued with prayers, the Mothers’ Union prayer, a concluding hymn, and the Blessing. Doreen Lindsay carried out the Branch Banner during the recessional hymn. Thanks must be given to our Church Wardens, Mr and Mrs Robert Moore who, along with a couple of our MU members, welcomed our visitors to our church.

A supper of sandwiches, fruit loaf, and pastries followed the service. We had decorated our church hall with MU colours and items of interest including photographs of previous MU branch members. Both the church and the church hall had floral decorations in shades of blue, yellow and white; floral posies, bud vases and on flower stands.

As the afternoon conversations continued over a cup of tea, Mrs Peggy Flynn and Mrs Doreen Evans, two of our longest serving members, were invited to cut our MU celebratory cake which was made by a parishioner and local bakery owner. This was followed by Mrs Margaret Nelson sharing a few thoughts about her time as a member of our branch. Then, Mrs Bronwen Dark thanked everyone for coming and thanked those involved in the preparations for the day. Mrs Sally Cotter was given an orchid in a glass vase as a thank you gift from our branch for her participation in the afternoon celebrations. Everyone was wished a safe journey home.

Bronwen Dark, Branch Chairperson

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