MOTHERS’ UNION FESTIVAL SERVICE 2015
DIOCESE OF CASHEL, FERNS & OSSORY
St Mary’s Church, Enniscorthy,
Wednesday 29th April 2015.
‘United in Prayer’
Following the processional hymn and still in Eastertide, the Bishop filled the large, well-filled church with his booming voice ‘Alleluia! The Lord is risen!’ To which the congregation of Mothers’ Union and friends enthusiastically replied ‘He is risen indeed. Alleluia.’
The Bishop then explained that this year’s festival service had an altered format from the normal corporate Eucharist. This meant that he had the unusual pleasure of largely sitting back to listen and to enjoy the service.
Dedication of the new Diocesan Mothers’ Union Banner
However before that, he had much joy in dedicating the new Cashel, Ferns and Ossory Banner. This had been lovingly and expertly created by Ms Frances Bradley of Castlecomer. She had spent four months weaving and stitching the new banner, the wording of which now reflected the new United Diocese. Taking various suggestions, Frances had woven a wonderfully colourful mixture of emblem, words, people, including men (!), and uniquely she had adorned the reverse side with the tree of life.
The Bishop suggested that a banner is all about leading people, people on the move, and in our pilgrimage it was time to have a new symbol for this new chapter in the Diocese and he hoped that this banner would lead us forward for many years to come.
This beautiful gift was offered for the Glory of God symbolising the coherence and the vision and the vocation of the Mothers’ Union for the enrichment of the life of the Diocese and that it would lift the hearts of all in pilgrimage and joy for years to come.
Ministry of the Word
The Diocesan Chaplain to the Mothers’ Union, the Revd Canon Ian Poulton, then led the service forward by offering prayerful thanks for the plans that are in train across the Diocese for ‘Mums in May’ and for the ‘Wave of Prayer’ links across the world, valued over many years and now embracing new relationships ahead.
Canon Poulton read the first lesson and Mrs Rosemary Smith the second. The sermon was given by the Dean of Cashel, the Very Revd Gerald Field.
Address: ‘Do what you can….not what you can’t!’
Over the years the image and role of the MU has changed with a new logo and new Mothers’ Union prayers replacing the originals. But one thing that doesn’t change, and has never changed, is what lies at the heart of what the Mothers’ Union is and does, and that is what we are celebrating near to St Mark’s Day with whom there are definite associations with the Mothers’ Union. The Dean then asked ‘When was the last time you saw an evangelist?’
Mark’s gospel was innovative, the first of its kind, the one from which others who wrote of the life of Jesus took their example. In Mark’s gospel there’s almost a sense of urgency about the way the author writes. The word ‘immediately’ is found no less than 40 times in it.
Jesus’ ministry moves at a pace in this Gospel; there’s no time to include peripheral, unnecessary detail. Jesus’ actions and teaching speak for themselves. They impact upon the lives of those he serves without the need for further explanation or commentary so that the message of the Gospel can be easily understood, believed, and acted upon.
The basic message of the Feast Day of St Mark the Evangelist carries the ‘good news’, that is the primary source of celebration. And that also everyone is called to be messengers of God.
Now new links are embraced within the ‘Wave of Prayer,’ the Christian faith, and witness to that faith, is all about relationships: with God, with each other, with those to whom God sends us as His messengers. It’s not a matter that this can’t be done or this shouldn’t be done.
The Mothers’ Union didn’t become the force it is by conforming to the rules and constraints of conventional society. If Mary Sumner had taken notice of the rules governing her society in relation to the role of women, we wouldn’t be sitting here today! The MU has not allowed itself to be limited in what it does to foster good relationships.
The M.U. website states: ‘Society is based on many different relationships: families, friends, colleagues, faith communities … politics including laws, economics, conversation and tradition… Mothers’ Union works at all of these levels and brings the additional tradition and voices of Christian faith to the debate. This tradition insists that basic needs of clean water, shelter, food, healthcare, education and respect for human dignity are everyone’s right.’
So how does that work out practically for the members of the M.U. in the United Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory? ‘Do what you can….not what you can’t!’
The message God wants communicated in the same way as it has been since Creation: God loves and cares for all creation – God loves you! For some it is hard to receive or understand, because of things they have seen or endured; but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to find ways of communicating that message.
As a former Diocesan Chaplain the Dean was always impressed by the little things that were being done across his Diocese to help people in time of need: wash bags for those admitted to hospital urgently without the time to collect such things; knitted bonnets and clothes for premature babies because things that small are not available in shops; activity bags at the back of church for young children to help themselves to, and keep them occupied whilst the Rector bores them (and no doubt their parents!!) with the sermon! Keep it simple!
Also to support those who are able to do what you can’t. We can’t all travel to help the struggle with natural and manmade disasters to offer practical aid. We can’t all go prison or hospital visiting. However, support can be nowhere more importantly so than in prayer:
‘United in Prayer,’ a ministry that is not constrained by place or circumstance.
The Dean encouraged all to pray each day in whatever way is best. The Gospel proclaimed that the message is more important than the identity of the person proclaiming it. The vast majority of those we support through our branches and Diocese have no idea who we are; but they experience the Gospel in action through our efforts. Also, the sense of expectation in Mark’s gospel is to be found in all that the MU undertakes: the expectation that God will answer prayer and that any work done in His name will bear fruit, whether or not we may ever see it come to fruition. We are all called to be evangelists, and ‘When was the last time you saw an evangelist?’ Look around to see all as fellow evangelists in this parish church!
Following the pattern of the new format, time was given to the ‘Wave of Prayer’. The Diocesan Mothers’ Union worldwide links include Twic East in the Sudan, an area of approximately 700 square miles; the Diocese of Owerri in South East Nigeria; Ughelli, also in Nigeria, a diocese inaugurated in 1998 with its diocesan President Mrs Ufuoma Odutemu, wife of the Diocesan bishop, and where members of the MU here regularly hold prayer meetings both congregationally and in homes.
Two other Mothers’ Union Dioceses, Rorya in Tanzania and Gippsland in Australia, were introduced to the congregation by two people who had connections there.
Firstly Jessica Clarke, link correspondent for Dublin & Glendalough Diocese and who had served in Tanzania with CMS. Speaking a few words of Swahili, Jessica then told the congregation that Tanzania was 12 times the size of Ireland. Rorya is, like the others, a relatively new diocese in the Lake Victoria and Kenya vicinities.
She showed everyone two colourful kangas, these brightly-colored cotton cloths are the de facto national dress in Tanzania.
In Rorya the MU has much in common with Ireland being involved in teaching, both educational theory and practical living. However HIV Aids is still rampant. Despite all the problems the people are always cheerful and positive. Jessica extended greetings from Rorya to Cashel Ferns and Ossory with the hope of getting to know each better as time goes on.
Rosemary Hill, formerly from Melbourne, Australia, introduced Gippsland Diocese to everyone . She explained that her connection with the Diocese was that she has cousins in Gippsland, and had often holidayed there. The area is situated in the bottom right hand corner of Australia covering 15,00 square miles with a population of about one quarter of a million. A diverse area, much of it is bounded by the sea and with largely a rural community. However its wealth in mineral means considerable industry. There are 10 MU Branches – from Orbost to Phillip Island with 160 members.
The Venerable Chris Long
Following the Thanksgiving and Intercessions led by Ms Margaret Stephens and members of the Mothers’ Union and the Blessing given by the Bishop, he made mention of the forthcoming retirement of the rector and Archdeacon, the Venerable Chris Long. More would be said at a later date about Chris, but for now the Bishop thanked him for his friendship to him and to many others, for being the wisest of pastors, the most faithful of ‘seer-througher’ of vision. Chris had been a driving force behind the unification of Ferns with the rest of the Diocese to become so harmoniously a single Diocesan entity. That which is embellished in word and picture on the new banner exemplifies his work probably more than anyone else’s. So it has been appropriate that the symbol of that work has been dedicated in his church. The logo symbolising many of the things he has done.
‘Alleluia, on we go!’
The Bishop rounded off this remarks where he began the service with the four words that he had used to the confirmation candidates in Kilkenny the previous Sunday. At the end of the day we all come to dust – with the hope of resurrection. The Dean, the Very Revd Katharine Poulton had recently remarked on a very apt and concise epitaph which she had seen on the gravestone of another bishop ‘across the water’. Very taken with this, the Bishop said it was the best he had ever heard and in ‘due course’ wished that it might apply to him! But here at the close of this occasion it was indeed a case of ‘Alleluia, on we go!’
After this conclusion, MU Diocesan President the Revd Margaret Sykes thanked all those who had been involved in the Service, not least the organist Ms Hilda Plant.
She thanked those in Enniscorthy along with Killanne and Killegney who had been working so very hard in preparation for the service and for the hospitality about to be served.
She thanked the Dean of Cashel for his thought-provoking words.
She noted with pleasure the presence of special guests Norma Bell, a former trustee and all-Ireland Vice President; two ladies representing GFS: Pauline Lawrence and Sylvia Treacy and also Val Galloway from Gorey Methodist Church.
She thanked Janet Crampton for all her work on the order of service and the production of the service sheet.
She thanked Rosemary and Jessica for speaking about their respective dioceses in the service.
Finally she thanked most sincerely Frances Bradley for all her hours of work in completing the new banner and Margaret made a presentation to Frances on behalf of everyone.
The banners were then processed out to the organ playing ‘The Grand March’ from Aida (!)
And ‘onward’ everyone went across the road to the newly refurbished and impressive Church Institute where tea and refreshments were served both on ground and upper levels.