At the Ugandan Community Church in Van Nuys, the Mothers Union is a pillar of extended church family. Founded in 1908 in British-colonized Uganda, at the UCC, part of the rich ministry of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, Van Nuys, CA, the Mothers Union (together with the Fathers Union) provides an anchor for second- and third-generation children and grandchildren as they make their way through their school, college, and early adult years.

It’s redolent of a communitarian model of childrearing. Many UCC parents work several jobs. Lieutenant moms come in handy. But the model has even greater virtues. In a secularizing time, fewer young people go out into the world with these kinds of old-school, old-church connections — nourishing provisions for their journey, baggage they can leave by the side of the road, usually a little of both. What we see and learn along the way leavens what we have inherited. But at least we are starting with something. We’ve heard recently from university experts who believe that undergraduates who arrive on campus rooted in systems of ritual and meaning beyond their digital feeds are more resistant to anxiety and hopelessness. If we’re looking for reasons we still need the church, there’s another.

On Sunday afternoon, the UCC’s Mothers Union welcomed a delegation of 18 visiting from Uganda, one of whom told me there are 200,000 members nationwide. The priests in charge, the Rev. Sam and the Rev. Joy Magala, organized everything, assisted by the Rev. Peace Kwikiriza and the Rev. Oneasmus Tayebwa. Our local president, Monica Ndinaiwe, and I presented certificates to nearly 20 Mothers Union inductees. I was also along to celebrate Holy Eucharist and sit at the knee of our preacher, the Very Rev. Canon Dr. Rebecca Nyegenye, chaplain of the cathedral in Kampala and the first woman named a provost in the Anglican Church of Uganda.

It was a Mary’s Day service, nearly three hours long. Canon Rebecca bracingly preached Marian virtues of submission to God’s will, self-denial for the sake of others, and obedience leading to action. What you need to know about Canon Rebecca is that in her luggage, she packed a heaping, blazing helping of the gospel fire. Missionaries revealed it to her 19th century forebears (her father was a priest, too), and she delivered it right back home. In the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Church of Uganda is holding itself apart, differing with those who stand for equity and welcome for all notwithstanding orientation and identification. But we were nevertheless together on a sunny, windy afternoon in Van Nuys, having in common our love for Ugandan children and grandchildren, now our neighbors. We pray that on our shores, they will always be beneficiaries of a true spirit of equity and welcome wherever the spirit may bear them, and whatever they think and decide for themselves and their families.