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  • Writer's picturePhil


Initially I was a little anxious when asked to take on two additional parishes on top of the already-busy market town of New Alresford with Ovington. Changes were afoot at Old Alresford Place, and my dear friend Raymond Tomkinson and his lovely wife Rose were to uproot and move to England's smallest county. This meant that Old Alresford and Bighton were to be gifted to my care, and for the next nine years what could have been a drudgery became a real joy.

What a privilege it was to become the Parish Priest of Mary Sumner's village, the birthplace of the Mothers' Union, one of the most-significant Christian organisations globally!

It all began in the-then Rectory, more-recently Old Alresford Place, in 1876.

Mary Sumner invited the wealthy and the poor of the village to the Rectory,

and was surprised ( and indeed rendered speechless) when they all came.

This was the first time that the women of the village,

from different social classes and backgrounds,

had been brought together to talk about their lives

and how they brought up their children.

After the initial meeting, which had to be postponed due to Mary Sumner's nerves getting the better of her, this group of women met frequently, numbers growing

each meeting. The Mothers` Union was born.

After the small-beginnings of those initial meetings in Old Alresford Rectory, the Mothers` Union grew and and changed. Currently there are four million members across 84 countries.

It is the largest non-political society in the world, and membership is still growing.

Today, the Mothers Union is a Christian membership charity, working with people whether or not they are Christian.

The Mothers' Union, as inspired by Mary Sumner, puts faith into action through many different projects, in this country and throughout the world.

"This happens as we work towards stopping poverty, stopping inequality and stopping injustice. Our members work at grassroots level around the world. They bring hope and practical support to millions of people every year through parenting, literacy and community development programmes.

Our aims and objectives are:

  • To promote and support married life

  • To encourage parents in their role to develop the faith of their children

  • To maintain a worldwide fellowship of Christians united in prayer, worship and service

  • To promote conditions in society favourable to stable family life and the protection of children

  • To help those whose family life has met with adversity

Our vision is of a world where God’s love is shown through loving, respectful and flourishing relationships. This is not a vague hope, but a goal we actively pursue by praying, campaigning and enabling. Mothers’ Union is firmly rooted in a voluntary ethos centred on mutual respect and collaboration. Our governance, leadership and programmes are undertaken and driven by members within their own communities worldwide." (Mothers Union, Winchester Diocese)

What would Mary Sumner make of all that’s happening worldwide today?

Wouldn’t she be thrilled!!!!!!

MARY SUMNER'S PERSONAL PRAYER - is one of my frequent "go-to" prayers.

What is there not to appreciate in the beauty of the prayer's sentiment?

All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for You; and every life I touch, by Your Spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak,

the prayer I breathe, or the life I live. Amen.

Mary Sumner Chapel and Window in St Mary,Old Alresford, dedicated by +David in 2016

Faithful and loving God, who called Mary Sumner to strive for the renewal of family life: give us the gift of your Holy Spirit, that through word, prayer and deed your people may be strengthened and your people served; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Mary Sumner died on 11th August 1921, a hundred years ago. She is commemorated in the Anglican Calendar on the 9th August, so as not to clash with the remembrance of Saint Clare of Assisi on 11th August.

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