Mary Sumner Day
Members of the St James’ Mothers’ Union
Trip to Alresford
On 9th August our Mothers´ Union branch celebrated Mary Sumner Day by taking a trip to Old Alresford House where Mary (our founder) lived with her husband George (son of Bishop of Winchester). George became rector of St Mary´s church in Old Alresford in 1850 and the Sumners remained there for 35 years. The house is now a training and retreat centre for the Diocese of Winchester but every year, on the anniversary of the death of Mary Sumner, the house is opened for Mothers´ Union members to view and a service is held in the church.
We arrived to a peal of bells from St Mary´s and in time for refreshments in the house, wonderfully laid on by the local MU branch. We then walked across for the 12 noon Eucharist service in St Mary´s, presided over by the Bishop of Basingstoke. The little church was packed with members from different parts of the country. Coming out of the church is a wonderful view across the Hampshire countryside. We made our way back to Old Arlesford House where we ate our packed lunch in one of the lovely rooms sitting at tables in front of a painting of Mary Sumner herself!
After lunch we were given a talk on the history of Old Alresford Place and St Mary´s church before once again walking across to the church for a talk by our Worldwide President, Rosemary Kempsell. She spoke about how Mary Sumner, aware of the lack of help for young mothers, invited mothers in the parish to meet at the house one day in 1876 and this became a regular meeting place for mothers from all social classes for mutual support. This lasted for nine years when in 1885 Bishop Wilberforce of Newcastle asked Mary to speak at the national Church Congress in Portsmouth about her work. Local clergy wives were so impressed by her that they wanted to start something in their own parishes and Mothers´ Union was formed. I wonder if Mary Sumner ever imagined that Mothers´ Union would grow to 3.7 million members worldwide! Rosemary spoke of the projects and programmes running in Africa and here in the UK. Times may have changed but Mothers´ Union is still meeting regularly to learn and to pray together and support families worldwide.
After the talk we returned to Old Alresford house for tea and cake. The sun was really hot so we sat in the lovely gardens chatting. There was time to see the chapel which displayed memorabilia and photo of the first ever branch! The local branch made us feel very welcome with constant supplies of drinks, biscuits and cakes.
Our thanks go to Chris Feltham for giving up his day to drive us in the minibus. We are truly grateful. We had a wonderful day.
Heather Walker – Enrolling member