The annual rally day of the Mothers’ Union was held April 29 at Christ Church Cathedral with 50 members in attendance. The day began with a service of Holy Eucharist with several members reading scripture. Dean Geoffrey Hall and Archbishop David Edwards presided.
The bishop preached, telling those gathered that the role of a Christian is to reflect the image of God in the world.
“If we want to know what God looks like, look to Jesus on the cross — suffering, broken, humble,” he said. “If we’re seeking to reflect the image of God into the world, we are seeking to reflect that image. God is moving us to have greater humility, brokenness.”
The Church has a responsibility to show the way forward, to defeat evil and injustice, he said. In New Brunswick, one of those evils is homelessness. During his time as rector at Stone Church in Saint John, one of his most pressing desires was to tackle the issue of youth homelessness.
“At Stone Church, we asked every high school in Saint John, ‘how many youth in your high school are in danger of homelessness?’” he said. “They all came back with the same answer: 200.”
Most weren’t actually homeless, and some didn’t realize they were homeless. They were couch surfing, staying with friends, leaving home because they were kicked out by a step-parent who didn’t like them, or leaving because they couldn’t get along with their parents.
“Youth homelessness is a hidden issue in our province,” he said, adding that housing youths with homeless adults means exposure to a whole host of problems that can then lead to chronic adult homelessness.
The solution is shelters that provide a bed plus the programs and supports to help them get back on track, get back in school, find a job, learn life skills, learn how to cope and so on. The Beacon Cove (formerly Safe Harbour) youth shelter uses this model. It was built on land where St. James Anglican Church once stood.
“We know it works,” he said. “We know this is reflecting the image of God in our world. Suffer the little children…
“Therefore, Mothers’ Union, I am challenging you to ask how you can advocate around youth homelessness. How do we as a church advocate around youth homelessness. If we don’t, we will have it for generations to come.”
The example of Jesus, when he ate with sinners, was to help outsiders become insiders because his heart was broken for the lost.
“If we look at the man on the cross, his heart is broken for these kids,” he said.
Members Shara Golden and Susan Colpitts-Judd (co-president) gave a presentation on gender-based violence using the Silent Witness project as the illustration. It began with a song called “I’ll stand in the rain” by Leslie Monaghan of the New Brunswick chapter. It is sung by Joan Kennedy, and has been translated into French and Spanish.
The Silent Witness Project’s aims are to remember the women murdered by their intimate partner, to create awareness of family violence and to promote action to help women coping with violence and spur communities and governments to action. It began in the U.S. and spread to Canada in 2001.
One of the ways they remember is with the silhouette program — life-sized wooden cut-outs of the women murdered in New Brunswick. There are 34 silhouettes of the 50 women murdered since 1990 here, with more planned. There were five silhouettes set up in the Cathedral for the presentation.
A list of the 50 women was read during the presentation.
“Each of these silhouettes represents a woman who once lived among us — a mother, a daughter, a sister, an employee,” said Shara.
Each silhouette includes a biography of the woman, and each is painted red. The silhouettes move around the province as part of the education program. The silhouettes also remember the women who chose suicide as a means of coping, unsolved deaths, and the others who also died from domestic violence: the parents, and children of women being abused.
There are many ways to become involved: supply the wood and paint; offer translation services; advocate for change; support the families involved.
“All of it creates awareness, which is what we are doing today,” said Susan. “Although these women are now silent, we have learned they have a strong voice.”
Shara noted that ending the relationship does not always end the violence. About one-third of the murdered woman in N.B. died after separation.
The presentation included a video that told the story of two New Brunswick murdered women. A moment of silence was held for all the murdered women, “and anyone you know or think is a victim,” said Susan.
Former parish nurse and Newfoundland-ordained deacon, Isabel Cutler, was on hand to help anyone present deal with the implications of the presentation.
SPEEDY CONVERSATIONS, MU JEOPARDY
Co-president Joanne Ham led the afternoon program, which began with “speedy conversations.” This was an effort to help members better get to know each other. They were asked to go table to table to have a short chat with whoever they found there, using questions provided.
The second activity was MU Jeopardy. Joanne tested each team’s knowledge on Mothers’ Union trivia and the morning’s presentation, with Ginny McEwen keeping score and Lilian Ketch as judge. Team 5, made up mostly of Hampton members, won with 2,900 points. The prize was chocolate, which they generously shared.
The day’s collection amounted to $729, which will be shared with the Northern Clergy Family Fund and Mary Sumner House in London, UK.
1. Group photo of Mothers' Union members in attendance at the annual rally April 29.
2. The Silent Witness Program, set up in Christ Church Cathedral, is a reminder of the 50 New Brunswick women killed by their partners in the past three decades here.
3. Alice Kennedy, Parish of Hampton and the Rev. Ann Fairweather, Parish of Coldbrook-St. Mary, have a “speedy conversation” during the afternoon activities at the Mothers’ Union Rally April 29. Speedy Conversations paired members for an informal chat to help them get to know each other better. A list of questions helped get the conversation started.
4. A soup and bagel sandwich lunch offered lots of variety. The desserts were all made from recipes contributed from MU members mostly from the UK. They included sticky almond cake, Scottish shortbread, date crunch, coconut slices and honey cake.
Thank you Gisele for the great coverage of the MU Annual. The work being done for fragile families and victims of domestic abuse is so inspiring. May our prayers keep holding up to God those among us living lives of fear and for those coping with harsher conditions away from us. Mothers’ Union has a long history of service and prayer for families. This looks like a lovely moment together in the larger community.
Thank you Gisele for such a lovely written document on our Diocesan Mothers' Union Rally, 2023. It was a great time, as always, and we get together with many of our M U sisters that we dont always get to see in person during our year. So the Rally is exciting, uplifting, and a blessing in many ways. Nice that you are always there amongst us Gisele. We love it.!!