Feast of Mary Sumner (August 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Mary Sumner

Image in the Public Domain

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MARY ELIZABETH HEYWOOD SUMNER (DECEMBER 31, 1828-AUGUST 9, 1921)

Foundress of the Mothers’ Union

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All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for thee; and every life I touch, do thou by my spirit quicken, whether through the word I speak, the prayer I breathe, or the life I live.

–Mary Sumner

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August 9 is the feast day of Mary Sumner in The Church of England.

Mary Sumner focused on the application of Christian faith in mothers to their family life.  She lived in circumstances quite different from those of many readers of this post; in her Victorian society respectable women were not supposed to engage in public speaking.  In some ways Sumner was of her times; in others she was ahead of them.

Mary Elizabeth Heywood, born in Swinton, England, on December 31, 1828, came from a cultured and wealthy family.  Her well-read father was a banker.  Her mother came from a family that owned land in two counties.  Mary, educated at home in Hope End, Herefordshire, mastered three foreign languages and sang well.  While studying music in Rome, our saint met George Sumner (1824-1909), son of Charles Sumner, the (Anglican) Bishop of Winchester.  George, recently ordained, married Mary in 1848.  They remained married for 61 years.

Sumner spent the 30 years of her marriage raising her three children–two daughters and a son.  She also managed her home and supported her husband’s ministry.  Our saint had initially felt inadequate as a mother.  When her elder daughter gave birth to Sumner’s first grandchild, our saint founded the Mothers’ Union.

The Mothers’ Union, founded at the rectory at Old Alresford, Hampshire, in 1876, was initially a parochial organization.  I brought together mothers from across social class lines, rooted them in prayer, and shared practical advice for meeting the physical and emotional needs of children.  The speaker at the first meeting, held at the rectory, was the Rector–George Sumner.

The Mothers’ Union began to grow and spread in 1885.  That year, despite social norms forbidding women from addressing public meetings, Sumner spoke to the 1000 women gathered for the Portsmouth Church Congress.  She called for national transformation via Christian women devoted to prayer and holy living.  Then the Bishop of Winchester made the Mothers’ Union a diocesan organization.  It was an international organization by 1896, when Sumner became the president.  She remained active in the Mothers’ Union until death in Winchester on August 9, 1921.  She was 92 years old.  Meanwhile, George Sumner (d. 1909) served as the Bishop of Guildford from 1888 to 1909.

Parenting is a great responsibility, one I hear, best exercised in community, not social isolation.  (I have no desire to become a parent, for I dislike children.)  Comparative studies of parenting styles around the world affirm the truth of the African proverb that it takes a village to raise one child.  May that village be a faithful and loving one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC; AND HIS DAUGHTER, EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND “HERETIC’S DAUGHTER”

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HIRAM FOULKES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Mary Sumner,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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