Mothers Union Norwich president puts faith into action
Faith in action is a principle the Mothers’ Union in Norwich lives by, as ably demonstrated by Marguerite Phillips, whose role as president has seen her campaigning for many causes, including Norfolk to provide sanctuary for Syrian refugees. Helen Baldry reports.
A compassion for refugees is something Marguerite grew up with. She has always enjoyed meeting people from other countries and has many friends of different nationalities. She was a teacher of modern languages at the Norwich School, has lived in Germany and has family members from overseas. She said: “Meeting people from all across Europe opens your eyes.”
The most depressed Marguerite has felt in relation to politics was after the Brexit vote – she said: “I felt like we are shutting the door on people.”
Marguerite admires Angela Merkel’s humanitarian response to refugees. She said: “I take my hat off to her – she set a fine example.”
Members of the Mothers’ Union in Norfolk prepared for the recent arrival of Syrian refugees to Norwich for many weeks by collecting household items and purchasing new bedding for their accommodation. They made up the beds and prepared the homes of the new arrivals to ensure they felt truly welcomed to their new city.
Marguerite, and her husband Peter, attend St Mark’s church in Lakenham. They have two children and three grandchildren. She loves gardening and singing and is a busy, active person who finds joy in helping people - and her mission to do so has led her on unexpected adventures.
Marguerite describes herself as a shy person who would have never considered being involved in demonstrations, yet she felt compelled to speak up in favour of Norfolk taking the refugees it had the resources for and found the campaign experience a positive one. She believes a key thing was that the action was underpinned by prayer.
It can be a challenge to snatch time to pray. Marguerite often prays when she is online, prompted by a quote or a prayer, particularly the prayers shared on the Mothers’ Union Facebook page.
She is grateful for all the encouragement she has received from people, including the Mothers’ Union members who continually pray for her. She said: “I can’t do it on my own.”
As president, Marguerite has developed lots of partnerships, including with Sanctuary Norfolk - a group of people of different backgrounds and faiths. She describes her involvement as “a wonderful eye-opener” and has found a lot in common and they were able to worship together.
Marguerite has learnt to be persistent. When she was lobbying for the Loving for Life marriage course to be backed at Westminster, she was advised by Jan McFarlane, who was Archdeacon of Norwich at the time, to “‘stick your foot in the door, and keep pushing!”, a lesson she has taken to heart. Marguerite said: “I have to carry out my faith through action. I try to follow the example of Christ and be compassionate. Sometime you have to take risks... the worst that can happen is you fall flat on your face!”
As a Christian growing up in a small Yorkshire village, going to church was a habit instilled in Marguerite from a young age. Her uncle was a vicar and Marguerite spent a lot of time as a child in his vicarage and has experienced a variety of church styles over the years.
She loves worshipping through song and enjoys spending time in the chapel at Norwich Cathedral – Mothers Union meet there to pray on the first Thursday of the month. She marvels at how you can see something new there every time.
While Mothers’ Union membership is dwindling in the UK, it is growing rapidly overseas, particularly in Africa and other countries across the world where women are motivated by literacy and the status it gives them and the support of belonging to a women’s group.
Pictured above is woman of action: Marguerite Phillips.