The last meeting of St Oswald's Mothers' Union was held in December 2015. Some members will be joining with Gobowen Mothers` Union.
125 YEARS OF THE MOTHER’S UNION AT ST OSWALD’S
On the closure of the St. Oswald’s Branch of the Mother’s Union, it is interesting to look back to its origins in Oswestry with the help of recent ‘digging’ in the archives at my request by John Pryce-Jones.
Searching copies of the Oswestry Deanery Magazine from 1870 to the 1930s and looking for the term 'Mothers' Union' revealed a notice in the magazine for April 1886. This referred to a meeting held on the 18th March at the Coach & Dogs when 87 mothers enrolled themselves in a mothers' union. The meeting had been addressed by a Mrs Herbert of Vauxhall, London. This seems to be the first reference locally to something called the Mothers' Union.
However, there are lots of earlier references to Mothers' Meetings held locally (including at the Coach & Dogs); the earliest reference to Mothers' Meetings in Oswestry so far found is from 1867, when Mrs Bertie Williams Wynn (of Llanforda Hall) gave tea at the Victoria Rooms for about 60 mothers, and distributed buns to children present. Miss Stanford, the subject of one of John Pryce-Jones recent articles, and who moved to Oswestry in the late 1860s with her mother, was heavily involved in organising Mothers' Meetings both in Oswestry and Morda.
Mothers' Meetings seem to have taken place, on a regular, on-going basis in parishes across the country, from the 1850s onwards, possibly earlier. First impressions may seem to suggest that these were more an aspect of Victorian philanthropy alongside coal clubs, ragged schools and so on. They were often led by the well heeled and well off and aimed at the poor of the parish, whilst the Mothers' Union seems to have had more of a focus on being for women of all classes meeting together with a common purpose. In reality, in the early days, the difference may have been hard to spot.
As is well known the Mothers' Union nationally had its first branch established in Old Alresford, Hants, in 1876, by the rector's wife Mary Sumner. Growth appears to have been patchy, at least initially, and a truly national structure seems to have emerged in the early 1890s. In Oswestry & district, after 1886, the focus appears to have remained on Mothers' Meetings, but in July 1893 there was a major push, locally and across the diocese (of St Asaph) to set up Mothers' Union branches. The church magazine reported in July 1893 that "This important Society is about to be established in Oswestry. A meeting will be held in the Victoria Rooms at 3 on Friday, July 7, at which all Mothers of every class of society are urged to attend. The meeting will be a private one, that is to say reporters will not be admitted, and the Hon. Mrs Bulkeley Owen will address the Mothers".
Also in the July 1893 magazine, a report noted that the bishop of St Asaph intended that Mothers' Union branches should be set up all across the Diocese, observing that the concept was already working in St David's and Bangor, and in most English Dioceses. The report indicated that "the object is to awaken in women of all classes a higher sense of their responsibility towards their children and young servants, and to raise the standard of purity". The Hon. Mrs Bulkeley Owen, daughter of the first Lord Harlech and married to the Rev. Thomas Bulkeley Owen of Tedsmore, had been appointed the first Diocesan President for St Asaph.
Today of course the Mothers' Union is an international Christian membership charity that aims to demonstrate the Christian faith in action through the transformation of communities worldwide. They are working with people of all faiths and none in 83 countries to promote stable marriage, family life and the protection of children through praying, enabling and campaigning.
The St. Oswald’s Branch of the Mother’s Union has shared creatively and prayerfully over the years in this visionary work and we give thanks for their work and witness. As the Branch here closes the work of transforming communities goes on and so we look forward to the new work that God has in store for us all. It seems fitting to end this piece with the personal prayer of Mary Sumner:-
All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for thee; and every life I touch, do thou by thy Spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayer I breathe, or the life I live. Amen.
MOTHERS' UNION PRAYER
Loving Lord, we thank you for your love so freely given to us all. We pray for families around the world. Bless the work of the Mothers' Union as we seek to share your love through the encouragement, strengthening and support of marriage and family life. Empowered by your Spirit, may we be united in prayer and worship, and in love and service reach out as your hands across the world. In Jesus' name. Amen
Ladies of the Mothers' Union, October 2014
The Mothers' Union display at the Open Day, October 2014. 'The Harvest of the Mothers' project.
Above: the Wave of Prayer. Below: Michelle leading a meeting.