June 2018 – Guilty or not guilty – The speaker at the June meeting was Liz Miles, one of our own members. She has recently retired as a magistrate after 23 years of service. Magistrates were first appointed in 1195 by Richard I and the first woman was appointed in 1919. Liz gave us an account of a typical morning’s work where she heard cases ranging from someone who downloaded indecent images of children; the discovery of 10 bags of ‘a white substance’; a charge of assault and causing actual bodily harm as well as others. The magistrates have to decided how to sentence and to make sure that they are consistent and fair.
Liz pointed out that a lot of the work of the Mothers’ Union is at the grass roots of problems, one of which is helping those who are victims of domestic violence. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be victims and there are usually 35 assaults before a report to the police.
The members were then invited to be ‘virtual magistrates’, using a training model, and hear a case of common assault to which the accused had pleaded not guilty. The prosecution and defence statements were read and a decision had to be made as to whether the accused should be sent for trial. After much discussion it was decided that a trial should take place. Personal statements of the victim, the accused and the Probation Service Report were read and a verdict had to be decided upon. This was not easy and some insight was gained into the complex and difficult work that the magistrates do voluntarily.
May 2018 – “Every baby is special and every family is unique” said Jennie Lewis, Leah’s daughter, our speaker at the May meeting. Jennie, a trained nurse, is based in Leeds working in two hospitals supporting families whose babies have been born prematurely. At 23 weeks a baby can weigh just 500 gms and the first 48 hours are crucial to its development. To show us how tiny the babies are Jennie brought some nappies which were so small, that they could have been used on a doll, and minute babygrows. Temperature control is very important as the babies don’t have enough fat to keep them warm and the hospital welcomes gifts of very small cardigans. She suggested that this could be a way that our branch could help by employing our knitting skills, a practical way of fulfilling one of our objectives, ‘to help families whose life has met with adversity’.
Jennie helps the mums prepare for discharge from hospital and visits them at home to encourage and support them. She emphasised that it was important to congratulate the family when the baby is born no matter how tiny they are. Sadly, not all babies survive but their short lives can be very positive. This has been a challenge for Jennie’s Christian belief, but she quoted from Psalm 139 that ‘we are fearfully and wonderfully made’, and she knows that God loves them and that they are in a better place.
Jennie was an inspiring speaker and obviously loves her job which she says is fun and a great privilege. The families in Leeds, who are faced with the challenges brought by having a premature baby, are so fortunate to have her to support and care for them.
April 2018 – At the beginning of the April meeting, Margaret Willis, the new Branch Leader presented Margaret Mason, the out going leader with a bouquet of flowers and book tokens with thanks for her leadership over the past 7 years.
Members of the committee than explained various myths and customs associated with Easter. The Judas tree grows to a tree up to 40 feet tall and has pink blossoms. It is supposedly the tree on which Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus.
There are various myths about rabbits and hares which are very much part of Easter and have been for centuries. The pre-Christian festival of Eostre celebrated the goddess of fertility whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. The myth tells that the goddess found an injured bird, nursed it back to health in a nest and turned it into a hare but it continued to lay eggs. We are all familiar with Hot Cross buns which originated in the 12th century. It is said that a Hot Cross bun baked on Good Friday will never go mouldy.
Each year, 80 million chocolate eggs are sold in the UK. In the distant past eggs were used as currency and as it was usually women who cared for hens they were allowed to keep the money. The egg symbolises new life, purity, regeneration and resurrection. Of course, the shape represents the stone that was rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. Frys manufactured the first chocolate egg in England in 1873 closely followed by Cadbury. Today the Real Easter Egg is produced by the Meaningful Chocolate Company to educate people about “Jesus, the greatest story ever told.”
December 2017 – The December meeting began quietly as we considered the words from Isaiah prophesying the coming of the Messiah. Each member was given a Candle Prayer Card to help with reflection and prayer during Advent. It was a joy to enrol Gill Tipton as a new member to our branch but sadly we had to say goodbye to Hilary Robin as she is moving back to Berwick with Dick. In our prayers we remembered our members in Namibia. One of the big issues is the abandonment of babies, another is gender based violence especially that of domestic violence with a high number of incidents resulting in death. The Mothers’ Union are passionate about working with not only other churches but also with other organisations and government officials to see positive change in society and a brighter future for all.
After dealing with the business side of the meeting things became louder and competitive as we embarked on a Beetle Drive. It was amazing to listen to the shouts of laughter and to watch Rhona, who has just celebrated her 99th birthday, roll the dice so speedily! After glasses of warm, spiced apple juice, seasonal cakes and of course cups of tea the volume of chatter and laughter increased. We all treasure our membership of the Mothers’ Union and give thanks for the friendship within the branch and for the times of sharing concerns and laughter.
November 2017 – The first Object of the Mothers’ Union is “to uphold Christ’s teaching on the nature of marriage and to promote its wider understanding.” And so at the November meeting the theme was marriage and especially the forthcoming 70th wedding anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. With the wonder of the internet it was possible to find the sermon preached by the Archbishop of York at the wedding on 20th November 1947, which was read out followed by one of the prayers.
Members were asked to bring a photograph of their own wedding which provoked much discussion as they were asked to guess who was who.
A card had been made by Tina Raddenbury, to send to the Queen and Duke and of course, being a celebration, cake was involved. This had been made by Sue Ryan and decorated with a pattern from the wedding dress. It was cut by Leah Lewis whose own wedding anniversary fell closest to their majesty’s.
The afternoon was full of laughter and sharing as well as thoughtful thanks for the example set by the Queen and Duke.
The next meeting will be on December 6th
October 2017 – As we begin the season of remembering, the October meeting focused on memories. The meeting began with examples of the many times the word ‘remember’ occurs in the Bible. The one that many people will recall is ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’ one of the Ten Commandments.
Each group of 4 or 5 people had two decades from the 1920s to the present day to think about. There was much chatter and laughter and memories were shared. Some members brought memorabilia; knitting patterns for bathing suits, fashion magazines with pictures of elegant ladies in the 1947 New Look, souvenirs from the Festival of Britain, birth congratulation cards and photographs of school and weddings.
There were sharings of the experience of treatment for breast cancer and the recollections of one member who had visited North Korea in 2007. This gave us an insight into the country that we do not see on our television reports today.
It is good to spend time talking with, and listening to each other which can build up relationships.
The next meeting is on November 1st and will be a celebration of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s 70th wedding anniversary. Please bring a photograph of your wedding. Cake will be involved.
September 2017: The September meeting began with Sarah, our Rector, leading us in a celebration of Holy Communion, which, because of the reordering work in progress in St Mary’s, was held in the church hall. This meant we were able to hold a more informal service, sitting in a circle and passing the bread and wine to each other.
Following the service our speaker was Wendy Reynolds, a member of our congregation who divides her time between Ross and the Falkland Islands. A much travelled lady, Wendy has recently returned from a visit to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Her talk focused on her impressions of Machu Picchu and with beautiful pictures and gentle commentary we learnt about this amazing place which was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and was made a world heritage site in 1983.
The Inca civilisation was short lived, from 1200 – 1538. One of their first leaders, Pachacutec, encouraged respect for fellow men and nature and there was a long period of peace and harmony. Nine more leaders followed, however, Machu Picchu was abandoned around the time of the Spanish Conquest.
The skills of the builders and their understanding of astronomy were impressive and Wendy’s talk left several of us with a yearning to visit.
Ross branch will be leading Cathedral Prayers at midday on Thursday 14th September in the Lady Chapel. Do come and join us.
Next meeting Wednesday 4th October 2pm Church Hall
July 2017: Peter Reynolds was the speaker at the July meeting and gave us an insight into Argentina and its place in history. Peter has lived in Argentina and obviously has a great love of the country. With the help of photographs he took us on a journey from east to west and north to south of the 8th largest country in the world.
The Inca civilisation built spectacular cities and was well developed but was eventually overrun by the Spanish invasion in the 1550s. In 1585 the Jesuits set up missions to stop slave traders taking away local people but this annoyed the Spanish government and in 1767 the Jesuits were banned from South America. It was sobering to realise that slavery still exists today not only abroad but also in this country. The Mothers’ Union works with various agencies to help eradicate this practice. It is one of the objects of the organisation ‘to help those whose life has met with adversity’.
Argentina has a rich geological heritage as was discovered by Darwin in 1832. He spent 4 years in Argentina and his study of the geology has stood the test of time and he gained great respect from the scientific community which led to the acceptance of ‘On the origin of Species.’
June 2017: Once again, Ross-on-Wye has been hit by a giant tidal wave as another of our citizens has been cast away on a desert island. Freda Davies shared her choice of 8 discs with the members of the Mothers’ Union. The music was an eclectic mix ranging from Opera, with the duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers , to drumming by the Japanese group, Yamato, with a bit of Welsh, Jazz and Rock’n’Roll in between.
Freda took us through her life story in music beginning in Tremadoc, her birthplace, which she shared with T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), to Liverpool, Cardiff and eventually settling in Ross. Her faith shone through as well as her passion for the work of the Mothers’ Union both here and overseas.
The book she chose was the Collected works of R.S. Thomas, a favourite poet, the luxury, a large quantity of drawing paper, crayons and paint so that she could develop her skill in drawing trees, which hopefully will be on the desert island. The one disc that Freda would save was ‘You will never walk’ alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers, not only because it would remind her of Liverpool and her father but also because the words reassure her that we are never alone as our loving God is with us all the time.
Next meeting July 5th when the speaker will be Peter Reynolds
The speaker at the April meeting was Rev’d Simon Tarlton. Before training for the priesthood Simon had worked in the City as a ship broker but was made redundant. He decided he really wanted to be a gardener and so took a degree in horticulture and became the Head Gardener at Weston Hall. His main interest was in growing cut flowers. Pre the 1970s the UK was 85%-90% self-sufficient in cut flowers but with the spike in the oil price many growers went out of business. However in the Netherlands the government stepped in and subsidised the fuel for their growers. British growers couldn’t compete and now we rely on imports mainly from Africa, but with today’s interest on the provenance of our goods there is a market for British flowers.
Simon wanted to share his passion for gardening which had put him back on the ‘straight and narrow’ after a difficult time in his life and so he decided to launch ‘Phocas’. Phocas was a 3rd century Christian who was murdered for his faith, he is remembered as the patron saint of gardeners and farmers.
Having found an allotment in Lea and battling with bureaucracy Simon has at last been able to work with people who have had difficulties in their lives, particularly those who have been left behind by society, by helping them to build skills. There is a 12 month programme and now the scheme has been validated by Pershore College.
As well as growing flowers for local florists, farmers’ markets and the general public Phocas will also provide a bespoke growing service for special events, especially weddings.
This business is not a charity but a social enterprise for sustainable futures. It is inspired by faith, God is in the work and each day begins and ends with prayer in Lea church. Simon’s talk was inspiring and there were many questions. There is a clear link with his work and one of the objects of the Mothers’ Union which is ‘to help those whose lives have met with adversity.’
At the AGM in March the following ladies were elected:
Margaret Mason, Branch Leader
Margaret Wills, Branch Secretary
Penny Comley, Assistant Secretary
Tina Raddenbury, Treasurer
Leah Lewis, Viv Price and Sue Ryan committee members
The next meeting will be held on April 5th when Rev’d Simon Tarlton will speak about his new venture ‘Phocas: Flowers for a future’
The first meeting of 2017 focused on Candlemas. This festival, celebrated on 2nd February, was originally known in the sixth century as ‘The Meeting’, a reference to the meeting of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus with Simeon in the Temple. Later the Western church celebrated this day by the lighting of candles. In pre-Christian times it was the festival of light. This ancient festival marked the midpoint of winter. It became the day when all candles that were to be used in church during the coming year were brought for a blessing, a reminder that Jesus is the Light of the world. On Candlemas night, many people place lighted candles in their windows at home.
Snowdrops are known as Candlemas bells, there is an ancient saying ‘The snowdrop, in purest white array, first rears her head on Candlemas day.’
Following inspiration from a recent Songs of Praise broadcast where viewers saw a keep fit group meeting in a cathedral Margaret led in the meeting in a series of seated exercises, a warm up to the movements that were introduced as an accompaniment to the chorus of the hymn ‘Lord, the light of your love is shining’ which was used later in the meeting.
Following this gentle exercise, which produced much laughter, several members read out poems and information about candles and snowdrops, some serious and some amusing but all gave much food for thought.
The next meeting 1st March will be the AGM to be held after Ash Wednesday 10. 30 am said Communion service.
The December 2016 meeting began by listening to the Candlelight Carol by John Rutter and after prayers Tina Raddenbury gave a demonstration of how to make an Advent Ring. Tina explained the significance of the colours of the 4 candles which are lit on the 4 Sundays of Advent and the 5th on Christmas Day. The evergreen foliage represents God’s never ending love and the holly the crown of thorns. Tina also described different Advent rings that she had seen in various churches that she had visited.
Everyone then made a mini version using old CDs, green card, holly leaves and small red balls for holly berries. The ring was finished off with a nightlight. The room went very quiet as concentration was needed but the finished results were very pleasing. The noise level then rose as people exchanged remembrances of family Christmas traditions and the afternoon ended with a welcome cup of tea and pieces of Stollen
The next meeting will be on Wednesday 1st February 2017.
At the November meeting Heather Lovett gave an interesting and amusing report on the Annual General Meeting that she and Graham attended in Winchester in September. This was a very special AGM as the Mothers’ Union is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year.Archbishop Justin, in his sermon, said ‘the speed of change, a change which is not always welcome, has led many groups, such as churches and I’m sure the Mothers’ Union, to experience themselves living in a culture that they have not even begun to come to terms with, and every Christian denomination and church struggles with the results. It is neither less nor more challenging now to have strong families, strong and fit for the 21 st century, than it was when Mary Sumner (the founder of the Mothers’ Union) was a prophetic voice, and the need for reliance on God is the same.’ Heather said “ The word ‘inspirational’ is overworked and has lost some of its power, but I can find no other word to describe the effect that joyous, celebratory service had not just on us but on the hundreds around us.”
Following Heather’s report several members presented readings about ‘remembering’ or ‘memories’ as we were meeting on All Soul’s day. There were anonymous poems, and writings by A E Houseman, Christina Rossetti, W E Henley and Rupert Brook.
There are many traditions that are celebrated at this time of the year but the tradition of giving soul cakes has been in Britain since the Middle Ages. The cakes were usually filled with allspice and currants and before baking were topped with the mark of the cross to signify that these were alms. Children would go ‘souling’ begging for cakes from door to door and singing the traditional ‘soul cake’ song, the words of which were read out before everyone enjoyed a cup of tea and a soul cake.
On July 14th seventeen members of the Mothers’ Union attended the Diocesan Festival Eucharist in Hereford Cathedral to celebrate 140th anniversary of the founding of the Mothers’ Union. This was a joyous occasion and the patron Her Majesty the Queen was represented by the Lord Lieutenant, the Countess Darnley. Following the service members moved to the Bishop’s Palace garden for a picnic lunch and ceremonial cake cutting.
The week before Ross branch hosted an afternoon tea party to raise funds for the work of the Mothers’ Union at home and Overseas. They were delighted that the Mayor and Mayoress were able to attend. It was a very successful afternoon which raised £220.
The speaker at the June meeting was Richard Geary from the Peace and Hope Trust. This Herefordshire based charity has been working in Nicaragua since 1996 amongst poor and marginalised communities. Nicaragua, in Central America, is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere with a population of six and a half million, three and a half million of whom live in the capital. The country has the third largest freshwater lake in the world and 13 very active volcanoes.
Richard explained that after becoming a Christian in 1998 he lost his job and became self-employed. Because of this he was able to answer God’s call to work in Nicaragua four times a year. There are many ways in which the Trust works with local people but education and health are the main priorities. In January this year a team went out to build a clinic, it took twelve days with local help.
The recycling programme in this country collects surplus equipment for schools and hospitals and ships it to Nicaragua. Eight 40 foot containers were sent last year.
It was interesting to hear about the Moringa tree which is the most nutrient rich plant known to man. It grows well in Nicaragua and is a superb supplement to poor diets. Richard quoted a verse from Revelation “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
A quote from David Livingstone on the front of the charity’s information leaflet says “Sympathy is no substitute for action” a sentiment which very much agrees with the ethos of the Mothers’ Union.
Andrew Talbot-Ponsonby was our speaker in May. On 10th July 1963, a very youthful, Andrew set out, with two friends, to travel from Constantinople to Jerusalem on one bicycle. Needless to say, their trip was not without incident. The bicycle weighed a quarter of a ton and carried their sleeping bags, a petrol camping stove, a few clothes, tin mugs and a Union flag. It was an unwieldy beast, and, after a short time the gear mechanism failed. It was fortunate that the three young men had connections in high places and their trip continued with an altered route until a new set of gears was shipped out from England.
Andrew showed pictures of the Blue Mosque where, he said, there was a great feeling of peace as people prayed. They visited Antioch where it is said the believers were first called Christians. As they moved from Turkey to Syria, a coup took place and gun fire passed over their heads as they slept under the stars. The pictures of Syria were very poignant, it looked so peaceful, difficult for us to believe because of the news we see every night on our televisions.
Andrew stressed how hospitable the people they met were. Every time they stopped people appeared with gifts of food. Eventually the gear mechanism failed completely and the bicycle was shipped back to the UK from Beirut. By this time the friends had met up with a group of students from London University, who were travelling in a Dormobile, and offered them a lift to Jerusalem.
There are many sites around Jerusalem where it is claimed Jesus walked. The one certain site is the steps that led to Caiaphas’ house where Jesus walked the day before his crucifixion. Bethlehem is only about 5 miles from Jerusalem as the crow flies but because of all the troubles the journey is now much longer. It was good to be reminded that since 315 AD the Church of the Holy Nativity has been a place of Christian worship. Our prayers are needed for the people of the Middle East.
The speaker at the April meeting was Natasha from SHYPP (Supported Housing for Young People project). SHYPP provides housing, training and employment opportunities for 16-25 year olds across Herefordshire. There are 3 Foyers in the county which are able to accommodate 30 young people, one is in Ross. These Foyers provide help for the young people to achieve their goals and to learn independent living skills. SHYPP receives 80% of its funding from Herefordshire Council but has been told that it faces 60% cut in its income. However, the young people themselves have been fundraising. Earlier in the year they organised the Pancake Races in the town and are also involved in helping in charity shops and at the Food Larder.
The 2 young men who accompanied Natasha told us how SHYPP had helped them to become more independent. They enjoy the security that living in the Foyer gives them and also being part of a community. They often organise cooking competitions between them based on Ready, Steady, Cook and the Great British Bake Off.
There were many questions from members and Natasha expressed thanks to the Mothers’ Union for providing bedding, kettles and toasters etc. from their store based in Hereford. One of the objects of the Mothers’ Union is ‘to help those whose family life has met with adversity’ and it was good to know that we are able to do this here in Ross.
At the first meeting of the new year the topics were St Bridget’s Day and the festival of Candlemas which were held on 1st and 2nd of February respectively. St Bridget was born in Ireland in the 5th century, founded many convents and was well known for helping the poor. 20 churches were dedicated to her in Wales including nearby Skenfrith and 20 in England, the most famous being St Bride, Fleet Street. The sole Herefordshire dedication is at Bridstowe.
Candlemas draws some of its elements from paganism. In pre-Christian times it was the Festival of Light marking the midpoint of winter, half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Later in the Christian church it became the day when all the candles that were to be used in the church during the coming year were blessed. It is also the time to remember when Jesus was brought to the temple as a baby to be dedicated and was recognised by Simeon as the Light of the World.
Candlemas Day was also the day when some cultures predicted weather patterns. It was believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day. An old English saying goes: If Candlemas be fair and bright, winter will have another fight. If Candlemas brings cloud and rain, winter won’t come again. Since, in Ross, we experienced both kinds of weather on 2 nd February it is anyone’s guess how long winter will last!
Nimble fingers were needed to attempt to make a version of St Bridget’s cross but everyone’s success was rewarded by delicious scones and blueberry jam. Many people eat blueberry jam on February 1 st to remember St Bridget and her blue cloak.
St. Brigid’’s Cathedral, Kildare (above). The Gaelic word for Kildare is Cill Dara, which means the Cell or Church of the Oak. St. Brigid built her Abbey in Kildare around 480AD, on a Hill beside a great oak tree.