– Martha Ibezim, President, MU, WG and GG
From Obinna Odogwu, Ekwulobia
Mrs Martha Chioma Ibezim is the wife of Anglican Bishop of Awka Diocese, Rt. Rev. Dr Alex Ibezim. She is also the President of Mothers’ Union, Womens Guild, and Girls’ Guild in Awka Diocese in Anambra State. In this interview with Daily Sun, she spoke on the activities of the group, women’s participation in politics, feminism among others. Excerpts…
What exactly are the roles of Mothers’ Union, Women’s Guild and Girls’ Guild in the Anglican Communion?
Mothers’ Union (MU) is a worldwide movement of Anglican women founded by Mary Elizabeth Sumner in 1876 in the Church of England. She was wife of a clergyman and a grandmother who wanted to bring mothers of all social classes together to provide support for one another and to be trained in motherhood.
The Mothers’ Union candle has been illuminating the world since 1876. The CMS entered Nigeria in 1842. The gospel reached Igbo land in 1857. The Mothers’ Union in Nigeria was founded by Mrs Abigail Oluwole in 1908. Today, Mrs Nkasiobi Oko, the wife of the Primate of All Nigeria is the President while wives of Diocesan Bishops are referred to as Diocesan Presidents.
However, we have the Mothers’ Union, Women’s Guild and the Girls’ Guild in the Anglican Church. They are women that are enrolled into the Women’s Guild. And Mothers’ Union also are the married women wedded in the church who are enrolled in the Mothers’ Union. Actually, the role of the mothers are to take care of one another; to support one another; take care of the home and then to bring up godly children by the grace of God.
Of the Girls’ Guild, we train the girls in the guild to be future mothers; they are the future mothers so we train them by teaching them the Bible; teaching them how to pray; making sure they grow up in the church knowing the Lord and giving their lives to Christ Jesus.
How has this training impacted the homes and the society? What impact has it had in the families and the society at large; both the Mothers’ Union and that of Girls Guild?
Yes, it has impacted a lot because when you train a woman, you train a nation. So, the women are being trained to read the bible; to study the word of God; to be active in the service of God, they in turn go back to their various families to also train their children to study the Bible and grow in the Lord; to participate in the church activities. You know the Bible says that we should train up a child in the way he should go; when he grows up, he will not depart from it. So, the women go back to their families to teach their children in the way of the Lord because these children are eventually the ones that will go into in the world; into the society. So, when a child is properly trained, he or she will not be a nuisance to the society; he or she won’t be an armed robber or kidnapper. He would rather, impact positively on the society.
Many families today have various marital issues. How does the church especially the Women’s Guild and Mothers’ Union mediate in family disputes to restore peace in broken homes?
One of the aims and objectives of the Mothers’ Union is to help families that have problems. Families are bound to have challenges. So, when husband and wife have problems, there is need to resolve the contending issues amicably and then we move forward. The Mothers’ Union and Mothers’ Guild help the broken homes by reaching out to them, especially when the woman is there with the children and the husband is no longer there due to the family issues. You know, we come in to help the woman; to encourage her and we also assist her with necessary materials gifts she needs to sustain the family. But we go beyond these. Our major target in such a case has always been to restore peace between the husband and wife and bring them together again. We aim at bringing back the first love, joy and juicy years of such marriage. You see, the society cannot be peaceful if homes are not peaceful. So, whatever you want from the society must be rooted at homes. In Mothers’ Union and Women’s Guild, we have professional marriage councillors, prayer warriors and all whatnots needed to achieve these objectives. And to God’s glory we are excelling. So the issue of sustainability of marriages is one we handle painstakingly.
So many poor people abound in the society and they seem to be found more in the churches. What roles do your organisations play to assist poorer people in its fold, especially women?
Yes, we have a lot doing to help our women. For example, we have Mary Sumner Vocational Institute where we train young girls to be employers of labour; to be self-employed thereby alleviating poverty because when they are self-employed or employers of labour; it’s a kind of help in the employment issue in the country.
What significance has Mothering Sunday in the Anglican Communion?
Mothering Sunday is celebrated in Anglican Communion World in the fourth Sunday of Lent in honour of Mother Church, Virgin Mary and then all mothers. Because of the fruitfulness and holiness of the Church and biblical female-godly characters, the Communion practices it. It was included in the liturgy of the Anglican Communion (Church of England) revised in 1662.
During this Mothering Sunday the children and the husbands are expected to appreciate their mothers; to show gratitude to their mothers; to give them special gifts; to remember them in special ways while they are alive; to take care of them; to make sure that they’re in good health and good condition. So, the significance is that our mothers are being remembered. Being a mother is not an easy task so they need to be remembered. There is need to set apart a day to appreciate them by their loved ones.
Since the date of the festival falls half way between Shrove Tuesday and Good Friday in the middle of the Lent, Mothering Sunday is also called Mid-Lent Sunday. And as the day of Lent and Easter varies each year, so also is the day of Mothering Sunday.
The history of Mothering Sunday in England is centuries old. It goes back to the time of early Christians in England who celebrated a mother’s festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honour of Virgin Mary and the Mother Church. According to a custom laid, a person visits the church of his/her baptism (Mother Church especially the cathedral) on this day.
Mothering Sunday started in about 1600s. The origin of Mothering Sunday can also be traced to the fact that in early times, people in England, as a tradition visited their nearest parish called “Daughter Church” on every Sunday. Also, in those times in the 1600s, children after the age of ten left their homes for jobs as apprentice or domestic servants. It was considered important by the people that these children be allowed to visit their homes and mother church once a year. Accordingly, once in a year, in the middle of the Lent the children were given a leave by their employers to visit their “Mother Church” or “Cathedral of their hometown. These children on their visit to their homes, brought along gifts, flowers and special cakes for their mothers. These visits thus became a time for family reunion and over a period of time, this holiday meant for Mother Church was stretched to include all mothers and was named as Mothering Sunday.
What opinion do you hold about women’s participation in politics?
I support women’s participation in politics. There is need for women to participate in politics; there is need for our voice to be heard as women because we have a lot to offer; we have a lot to give back to our society. So, I encourage our women to participate in politics.
So, it’s not against the doctrine of Christianity as some folks insinuate?
No, it’s not. There is need for our voice to be heard; and there is need for us to help in nation building.
What opinion do you hold about feminism?
For the women who believe in feminism, I believe that we, as women, the Bible makes us to know that our husbands are the head of the family and we are there to support them. For women who believe in feminism, they need to balance their lives. Their lives don’t need to be one-sided.
Is that a sin against God?
Well, as a woman who is under a man there is need for you to respect him; to obey him; to take care of him and not to make him feel that you are equal. There is need to respect each other; there is need for mutual understanding; there is need for peaceful coexistence.