The Parish Churches of St. Mary and St. James, West Derby
Born Mary Heywood in 1828 near Manchester, Mary Sumner grew up in the beautiful surroundings of Hope End, in Herefordshire. The Christian atmosphere of her family home meant daily scripture and prayers formed the basis for her life in service to others.
She met and fell in love with George Sumner, the youngest son of the Bishop of Winchester when they met in Rome where she was completing her musical education and they married in July 1848.
In 1876, when she became a grandmother, she decided that a new organisation was needed in the parish and the first branch of the Mothers' Union was begun.
She believed that motherhood involved more than providing for the physical needs of children. The primary responsibility of mothers was to raise their children in the love of God with their lives firmly rooted in prayer.
A historic decision was made by Bishop Ernest Wilberforce of Newcastle in 1855 when he called on Mary to speak at the Portsmouth Church Congress. The meeting responded to her passion and conviction with a rousing ovation and so was born the diocesan organisation we know today.
Mary Sumner's Personal Prayer.
All this day, O Lord,
let me touch as many lives as possible for thee;
and every life I touch, do thou by thy spirit quicken,
whether through the word I speak,
the prayer I breathe,
or the life I live.
Mary Sumner House.
Mary Sumner House has withstood the test of 75 years well. It has survived flood and war. Of equal importance is that it has continued to serve the needs of the Mothers' Union globally.
Reasons for the House's special place in the hearts om members are not hard to find. In 1916 the Central President, Emily Wilberforce, proposed building a permamnent home for the Mothers' Union in London.
The War had revealed the depth of spiritual and physical need for the Mothers' Union work and the organisation felt it could not respond from rented offices in Church House in Dean's Yard. memory and honouring were also key components of the project.
The idea of honouring Mary Sumner by naming the house after her was combined with a desire to raise the building in memory of sons and husbands who were at the time giving their lives for the protection of their homes.
To the strong emotional ties of members to the house was added a strong sense of physical ownership, for it was they who contributed, through various fund-raising projects, almost the entire building cost of £58,388.
The building continues to honour the work of Mary Sumner not only by bearing her name, but also by enabling members to continue to work for stable family life and the protection of children throughout the world.