`Women have gifts that must be incorporated
into the Church'
If you teach a man, you teach a man. But if you teach a woman, you teach a family. And if you teach a family, you teach a community.
The Spouses' Home Tent was packed for a presentation on the work of the Mothers' Union last Monday evening. The Worldwide President, Lady Eames, gave a brief history of MU. Since its founding 122 years ago by Mary Sumner in her local parish, the society has spread worldwide and now claims more than three quarters of a million members.
The Chief Executive, Mrs Angela Ridler, spoke of Mary Sumner House, the administrative centre in London.The building was funded by member subscription, and at its heart is a chapel where midday prayers are said every working day. Mrs Lydia Gladwin, from Guildford (England), described the Action and Outreach Unit, the mission and ministry branch of the society, which is involved in government social issues and many local projects---from providing caravans for much-needed holidays to making gowns for stillborn babies.
Much of the work of the Mothers' Union is aimed at empowering and enabling women through education and training. Mrs Juliana Okine described work in Ghana which stretches from education on HIV and AIDS, widow inheritance and female genital mutilation to soap-making, subsidising school lunches, marriage counselling, and assisting with the training of ordinands. ``Women have gifts,'' she declared, ``that must be incorporated into the whole ministry of the Church.''
Mrs Miriam Ntiruka, from Tanzania, described a vibrant, growing society dealing not only in the spiritual but also in raising chickens, pigs, goats and cattle to assist family economies. She mentioned that there are far more women than men in Tanzania: ``Surely enabling women is of utmost importance in such a situation.'' Mrs Joyce Ngoda, also from Tanzania, described the training efforts of MU. Where few women read or write, visual aids are vital, and since women are first to wake up and last to go to bed their time is also at a premium.
She described how women are encouraged to get involved in decision-making.Women are the majority in church congregations and therefore give most in stewardship, but financial and administrative committees consist of men! ``Stewardship is not only in financial terms-your offering might be in maize or cabbage,'' she said. ``Projects and dioceses need to work on selfsufficiency, as central funds are not infinite.'' The audience murmered approval when she stated that male domination causes female oppression. Bishop Dinis Sengulane (Lebombo, Mozambique) was the last speaker. He described the Mothers' Union as a ``precious instrument of God's work.'' He spoke of his 85-year-old mother who was a first-generation MU member. ``The Mothers' Union should continue to grow upward, onward and outward,'' he added, ``as Jesus grew in stature, wisdom and grace.''
He praised the dedication of members who were always ready for church services, their singing reaching ears and hearts and hands and feet. He referred also to their pastoral care and commitment, and pointed out that women are towers of strength in prayer and fasting. After all, if the mother doesn't cook, the whole family fasts! He finished by directing the attention of Mothers' Union to the rising numbers of professional beggars on the streets-a new challenge. The Mothers' Union is very much alive and kicking. And singing, shouting and dancing, too.
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