When Mary Sumner, the wife of a Hampshire vicar who was later to become the second Bishop of Guildford, started The Mothers’ Union, it was to unite women of every class - a very unusual concept in 1876 – in support for each other, by prayer and practical help and advice, in bringing up their children in the Christian faith. From a small meeting of local women in the vicarage at Old Alresford, Mary Sumner’s vision spread to five continents.

We continue to follow and expand her vision to meet the needs of 21st century families. Although our cultures may differ across the world, we have a common aim and mission to:

  • Support and promote marriage
  • Encourage parents to bring up their children in the Christian faith
  • Actively participate in maintaing a worldwide fellowship of Christians united in prayer, worship and service
  • Promote conditions in society favourable to family life and the protection of children
  • Help those whose family life has met with adversity

What We Do

In almost every parish, there are Mothers’ Union members involved in working with families, such as ‘toddler praise’ church services, crêches for parenting courses or bible studies, and outreach to the elderly. We have teams of Mothers’ Union members from the Diocese who work in the 4 prisons in Surrey, either with the children of the visitors in the Visits Halls in the capacity of playleaders, or as ‘listening ears’ for women far away from their families. We have a new project to assist women prisoners in recording messages and stories for their children back home.

We work closely with Your Sanctuary for the women’s refuges, supporting them financially and practically. MU members play a large part in running local Child Contact Centres. Through the AFIA (Away From It All) scheme, we provide holidays and days out, often working alongside Home Start, for families suffering from stress and poverty. Families are recommended to us by clergy, schools and Health Visitors. Here in the Diocese of Guildford, we have strong personal links between members around the world and we really feel united in prayer, worship and fellowship. We aim to promote the well-being of families worldwide by:

  • Studying the needs of the local community and resourcing our members for practical action to improve conditions for families.
  • Supporting marriage through Marriage Preparation and Parenting Courses and offering help in times of stress and family breakdown
  • Campaigning  and lobbying  on worldwide issues that seriously impact family life, such as parental rights, flexible working hours, international debt relief, child poverty, and education in the prevention of AIDS
  • Working in partnership with the United Nations and other international agencies to achieve these aims.

Who we are in Guildford Diocese

We are an elected board consisting of a Diocesan President and 12 trustees. These  include 2 vice presidents and 4 unit co-ordinators. The units are Faith and Policy, Action and Outreach, Finance and Central Services, and Communications. We hold elections every three years and no member may hold the same position on the trustee board for longer than 6 years. Forum consists of all branch leaders and contact members, MU speakers, deanery coordinators and former Presidents. ALL members may attend the meetings which are held twice a year. All elections are through Forum. There are dedicated and professional staff at Mary Sumner House, the Mothers’ Union headquarters,  who support and encourage our  work. Diocesan Presidents meet regularly at Worldwide Council, chaired by the Worldwide President.