Mothers’ Union celebrates Deanery Festivals 2020 in new and novel ways.

Every year during the month of May, Deanery Festivals are celebrated across the eleven deaneries, with a branch in each deanery hosting the service in their church in turn. Members look forward to the opportunity to come together in worship, often with rousing hymn-singing, giving praise to our Lord God. Mothers’ Union banners are often processed or displayed. The service is followed with refreshments provided by the branch and a chance to catch up with friends from far and wide.

This year, the Deanery Festivals could not be held in their normal format but in consultation with our MU Chaplain, Reverend Sandra Birdsall, an alternative service was produced and shared with members through our communication channels – on our website, Facebook, emailed or posted to members not on the internet. Using resources from the central Mothers’ Union website, the Deanery Festival service followed the theme of ‘Building hope and confidence’ which is at the heart of our call to support individuals and families to transform their lives, as we reach out in love and service to others.

The service took the form of a Deanery Prayer Chain Service whereby members in the Deanery could join in the service, on the day and at the time of the proposed Deanery Festival and each member was asked to pray for their own Deanery and for the next Deanery on the calendar, similar to the wave of prayer and the timetable of Deanery Festivals was provided with the service sheet.

Individual members were asked to make a link for a paper chain and to write a prayer, a verse from the Bible, a line from a favourite hymn or poem on the link. Members will bring these links to their Branch meeting after the lockdown and the Branch leaders will join the links to form a branch chain and bring them to the first Deanery Meeting after the lockdown and attach them to a Deanery Anchor.

Deaneries found many ways of celebrating the Alternative Deanery Festival. Most members followed the Deanery Festival service in the comfort of their homes, some in their gardens with wonderful birdsong in the background.

The Penarth and Barry Deanery held their service on Zoom, with Revd. Sue Stevens leading the worship and members across the Diocese joining in.

Merthyr and Caerphilly Deanery were due to hold their Deanery Festival in the newly renovated St John’s Church in Nelson and members were thrilled when Fr. Gareth Coombes offered to live stream the service on Facebook for members, at the same time and on the same date as originally planned but unfortunately not from St John’s. Over 40 members were able to participate in this Deanery Festival service.

In the Rhondda Deanery, Raye Saunders (Deanery Leader) shared the service with Sheila, a member for whom she is a carer, in Sheila’s home. They were joined by their parish Tedi Pererin, Stephen.
The hymn ‘Praise my Soul the King of Heaven’ was played on ‘Alexa’ and sung at the start of the service. The paper links for the prayer chain had been prepared beforehand and Tedi looked after them as they prayed. Alexa played ‘Make me a channel of your peace’ and was sung at the end of their service.

Pontypridd Deanery Leader, Liz Jones, held the service in her home and made the anchor and paper chain link ready for her deanery chain links from her member. Christine Bowen shared a photograph of her service at home, with a cup of tea and a slice of cake to follow!

We are hopeful that there will be a celebration of the Eucharist in Llandaff Cathedral at some time, where members across the Diocese can come together and worship, with Deanery Leaders bringing the Anchors and chains to be blessed at this service.

This symbolic gesture reflects God’s love and promise and encourages us to take hold of the hope that we have, nourishing our souls.

God cannot tell lies! And so, his promises and vows are two things that can never be changed. We have run to God for safety. Now his promises should greatly encourage us to take hold of the hope that is right in front of us.  This hope is like a firm and steady anchor for our souls.

Hebrews 6:18-19 (CEV)

We give thanks to God for the creation of the intelligent minds that invented the technology which allows us to support one another at this time and provides ways of continuing our praise and worship together as Mothers’ Union.