Mothers’ Union Devotion 9th August 2020 – Mary Sumner Day
Today we remember our founder Mary Sumner who died in 1921 at the age of 92. This means Mary was born in 1828, when the world was a vastly different place. George the IV, extravagant creator of the Brighton Pavilion with a 50-inch waist, was still on the throne. The Duke of Wellington was the Prime Minister and women, well girls really, were legally allowed to marry at 12. By the time Mary reached her twenties, Queen Victoria’s 63 years reign had begun bringing many changes to family life in Britain.
More and more people flooded into the growing industrial cities leading to rising poverty but also an increasing middle class. In 1834, a new poor law bill was passed which meant women with illegitimate children could no longer look to the parish for support, as required by the old Elizabethan poor law. They could only receive help if they entered the workhouse where mother and child would be separated. Fathers were no longer legally required to support their illegitimate children.
Such retrograde legislation really devalued the position of women in society. Mary, however, reversed this trend. Throughout her life she became an advocate for the importance of a loving family life for bringing up children, addressing public meetings and writing countless letters to parliament. Things women just did not do at this time. She offered practical help as well, including supporting her niece and her illegitimate son. Mary’s motivation was first and foremost that of a Christian mother. She said, “a little infant comes bright from God’s presence, radiant with the light of heaven. His latest revelation of himself to our care-hardened lives.”
During Mary’s long life she witnessed what was at the time an unprecedented rate of change in society. I wonder what she would make of the subsequent 99 years, where that rate of change seems to have increased exponentially. I think she would cut straight to the heart of the matter – the importance of a loving family life in raising children, who are precious gifts of God, does not change. The practicalities may change but introducing children to the importance of the unconditional love of Jesus never changes. Mary said that, “Little children were born with a religious instinct, they value sympathy and the tender love and protecting care of the Lord Jesus brings joy into their lives and allays sorrow and fear.”
As Mothers’ Union members we too value the love and protecting care of the Lord Jesus, as we continue to uphold Mary Sumner’s legacy of uniting in faith to raise the home life of our nation and throughout the world.
Loving Lord, we give thanks for the inspiration of our founder, Mary Sumner. We look back with gratitude for her witness, and for all that has been achieved thus far in the name of Mothers’ Union worldwide. We pray for God’s blessing upon our future. May we continue to enrich family life for future generations. Amen
May God continue to lead you and inspire you for what lies ahead.