The Mothers’ Union was described, this week, as “the backbone” and “the heartbeat” of those parishes in which it has members. The tribute came from Bishop Andrew Forster during a sermon in St Patrick’s Church in Leckpatrick, on Monday 5th September, which marked the 90th anniversary of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong Mothers’ Union.

The extent of local members’ service to MU was highlighted by the presentation of long service awards by the organisation’s Diocesan President, Jacqui Armstrong. In total, the recipients had chalked up a combined total of 471 years’ membership. Among them was local stalwart Sylvia Downey who was honoured for her 45 years’ service.

This evening’s service was led by the Rector of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong, Rev Canon Paul Whittaker, and the Derg Valley choir – for whom this was their first post-lockdown performance – provided music.

Bishop Andrew told the congregation that despite his late mother’s decades-long membership of MU, he had never fully appreciated its work until as an adult he visited Africa and saw at first-hand how contributions from Northern Ireland had helped to lift families from poverty. He praised the work done by branches to help grieving families in their own communities and congratulated them on their response to the cost-of-living crisis.

The told Bishop MU members in the congregation that they, like he, were followers of Christ who wanted to make a difference. “Today, we say ‘Thank you’ to those who 90 years ago and down through those decades have made a difference as the backbone and the heart of these parishes because of their membership of Mothers’ Union; who have made a difference in what it means to be in fellowship with Christian believers; who have made a difference to those struggling in the darkest times of life; who have made a difference across the world for women and for their families; and how you will continue to make a difference in the small things and in the big things because we follow the one who changes water into wine; we follow the one who makes life different because he is Jesus and he is our saviour.”

After the service, the congregation enjoyed supper in the church hall where Mrs Downey cut a magnificent cake baked for this evening’s occasion. Kaye Nesbitt, who is a Central Services Unit Coordinator with Mothers’ Union Ireland, shared greetings from the organisation’s All Ireland President, June Butler. “The life of this branch has endured with the Lord’s help for a wonderful 90 years,” Mrs Butler wrote, “and will continue to do so…Many congratulations and I wish you God’s richest blessings for the future.”