Over ninety members from across Scotland came together at the Scottish Police College,
Tulliallan for the Gathering. During an intensive day and a half, we found out where
we've come, discussed where we are now and thought about where we are going.
The Gathering opened with a welcome from our Provincial President, Hilary Moran,
including a message from the Worldwide President, Rosemary Kempsell, prayer by Bishop
Mark (Moray, Ross & Caithness) and words of encouragement from the Primus of the
Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth.
In the first session, Trish Heywood, the first Provincial President of the Province
of Scotland when it was established in 1995, gave us a brief history of Mothers’
Union in Scotland.
Then we move into our diocesan groups to discuss and capture on post-it notes what
we are doing already. We tried to split these into three categories, organisation,
mission and membership. This was quite a challenge given that we thought an number
of activities has an impact in more that one category. This information was to form
the foundation on which we can build.
Then we heard how other provinces might offer other roads to think about. Some have
similar sized membership and some have even more widely dispersed membership than
Alison Chillingworth told us about the Irish experience. They have a larger membership
and operate on both sides of the border. They are particularly active in meeting
the needs of young families.
Angela Sibley told us something of how Mothers’ Union works in Canada. They have
a similar number of members to ourselves, but they are spread over a vastly greater
area. They have challenges in maintaining communication and contact that make ours
seem small, so may be we can learn something from them.
Finally, Sheila Redwood gave us an insight into the Mothers’ Union in Aotearoa, New
Zealand and Polynesia. Again they have a similar number of members to ourselves,
but they are spread over the two main islands of New Zealand plus a number of islands
in Polynesia a thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean. They also have the challenge
of being a minority organisation following the establishment of the Association of
Anglican Women in 1969. Nonetheless, they are conscious of the worldwide nature of
the Mothers’ Union and the support from their international links at times such as
after the earthquake in Christchurch.
The next session, in two parts, considered where we want to go. Now we were in groups
of around 10 members drawn from the dioceses. We considered the three aspects, organisation,
mission and membership and were challenged to suggest which things we want the Mothers’
Union in Scotland to start or keep doing. We also had to think about diversions,
things that don’t further our work, or dead ends, things that should be ended. At
the end of the session we had produced a “motorway-style direction sign” with our
Energy was beginning to run out at this stage and we retired to the lounge for some
rest and recuperation with some members performing their “party-pieces” before bringing
the evening to a close with the office of Compline.
After breakfast and Morning Prayer on Saturday morning, we were back in our groups
to consider in more detail how we might go about getting to two or three of our “destinations”.
At the end, each group was asked to feedback, to the whole assembled company, on
just one of their destinations. There had been a little bit of intervention to make
sure each group was reporting on a separate destination. Even so, it was remarkable
how often some themes emerged, such as simplifying our organisation, improving communication,
working with others on projects that have aims we share, making or keeping ourselves
relevant to the people we want to attract to join us, and concentrating on what we
are good at. Those who gave the feedback on behalf of their group had very little
time to prepare and only a three minute slot each, not that you would have realised
that fact if you had heard the excellent quality of each and every presentation.
MU Scotland members certainly have a talent for telling a succinct story!
That took us to Midday Prayers led by Trish Heywood and then lunch.
While we had been taking our rest at the end of Friday, Marian Pope, Diocesan Development
& Training Manager from Mary Sumner House, had been compiling the materials we needed
for the next session. We had to choose our two or three top priorities from the
list of suggestions (“destinations”) produced by all the groups and then give a consensus
view on the priority of all the other suggestions. There were over 60 suggestions,
so choosing the top three and giving a consensus view on all the rest within about
half an hour was a considerable challenge in itself!
The last session consisted of three members from each group holding cards showing
their group’s top three priorities. Marian went along the row reading out each priority.
It was again interesting to see how many groups had similar or complementary priorities
including all those themes that emerged in the morning session.
Before the celebration of the Eucharist that brought the Gathering to a close, a
number of people who had contributed to the success of the event were thanked. Also,
since her term of office ends in December, there was a presentation to Hilary Moran
to thank her for her hard work as Provincial President.
The Gathering was hard work with barely a spare minute in the packed schedule. It
was a great exercise in generating ideas and listening to the views of the membership.
The organising committee including the Provincial President designate, Jean Richardson,
now have a lot to mull over!