With only 1,000 members in Canada, Mothers? Union may have the dubious honour of being the least-known group within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Ethel Nelson, the president, thinks that?s a shame and would like to draw more members by clearing up some misconceptions, starting with the name. ?You don?t have to be a mother and it?s not a trade union,? she said in an interview from her home in Dartmouth N.S.
You don?t even have to be female ? there are several male members, she noted. The only requirement is to be a baptized Christian and accept the society?s objectives: uphold Christ?s teaching on the nature of marriage, encourage parents to bring up children in the church, maintain a worldwide fellowship of Christians, promote conditions favourable to stable family life and help those whose family life has met with adversity.
Mothers? Union was founded in 1885 in England by a rector?s wife, Mary Sumner, who thought mothers in all walks of life needed support in the spiritual and physical raising of their children. A branch was started in London, Ont., in 1888 but today Mothers? Union is far stronger in the rest of the world than in North America (there are three branches in the U.S.), with about 700,000 members in 96 dioceses of the Anglican Communion. It is especially strong in Africa, Ms. Nelson said, where family support services may be lacking.
The Canadian branch has its quadrennial national conference from May 31 to June 3 at St. Mary?s University in Halifax. Special guests include the worldwide president of Mothers? Union, Lady Christine Eames, Archbishop Michael Peers, and Archbishop Arthur Peters of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
The theme: Here I Am … Use Me, clarifies another misconception, that Mothers? Union is all about attending meetings and having teas. ?Our work is based on service. It?s a way of life focused on family life. Some (members) work on a project and never go to meetings,? she said.
Annual dues are $12 and the newsletter costs $7 per year. Service projects include visits to seniors? homes and fundraising lunches for the Mission to Seafarers, Ms. Nelson said.
One special project maintained by Mothers? Union is the Northern Clergy Families Fund, which disburses about 10 grants per year of $750 each to families of clergy in northern parishes, where the cost of living can be considerably higher. Bishops are consulted as to who might need an extra boost.
The money comes as a complete surprise and has elicited reactions such as these: ?Your gift made it easier for us to manage the expenses of a new baby,? and ?It is during the winter with temperatures between 30 and 40 below that it is important to get out, to prevent depression. Your gift enabled me to purchase a sewing machine, allowing me to become part of the local quilting group.?