The Archbishop of Canterbury has paid tribute to the Mothers' Union (MU) in Sudan, saying: 'I recognise the importance of Mothers' Union in Sudan. You are the heart and love of the Church. May God bless you.'
In a sermon at the inauguration of the Anglican Communion's newest and 39th Province – Sudan – on Sunday, Justin Welby added: 'Provinces of Mothers' Union around the world are praying for you today and always.'
The Province's first Archbishop and Primate, Ezekiel Kondo, also thanked the MU for its support and for 'always being there'.
During the service, prayers for peace were read by Mama Samira, the MU's elected leader for Khartoum. She was once a beneficiary of the MU's literacy and financial education programme and was elected leader after learning to read and write.
Sudan's MU leaders sent a message thanking the four-million-strong membership globally and called on them to pray for the province and for Sudan. Many MU members from as far afield as Trinidad and Tobago to New Zealand took to social media to welcome the new province.
In a letter to the new Archbishop Kondo, the MU's president, Lynne Tembey said: 'May all who lead the Church in the newly formed Province of Sudan, guide and direct those within their care with love and compassion seeking God's guidance in all things. I pray too for all people in Sudan. May the light of Christ continue to be your light, your guide and pathway.'
The MU's development team from the UK spent the week prior to the ceremony in a workshop run by the MU's Sudan leadership. The leaders, who represented dioceses from across the new province, mapped out their priorities for the future, which included education and developing good leaders within the MU.
The MU's head of development and policy, Nicola Lawrence, said: 'We have met with Mothers' Union leaders from across Sudan listening to their joys, challenges and the hopes and dreams they have for the future. Every day I have been humbled and inspired by the passion and commitment of the members who selflessly and sacrificially serve others in the community from visiting those who are sick in hospital or in their homes, supporting those in prison, to building the capacity of women through literacy, skills training and savings groups.'
She added: 'Please pray for Mothers' Union Sudan as they move forward together as a new province working together to be salt and light within their communities.'
The MU supports families and communities both in the UK and around the world. Since 1876, when Mary Sumner first brought together parents in her own parish to build their confidence in bringing up their children in the Christian faith, the MU has grown to over four million members worldwide. Its members work in more than 80 countries around the world as part of the volunteer base of local churches.