Mother’s Day and church

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The high holy day of Hallmark™ is nearly upon us. Amy Young, writing at the Messy Middle, offers so advice for clergy negotiating these dangerous waters:

Dear Pastor,

Tone can be tricky in writing. Picture me popping my head in your office door, smiling and asking if we could talk for five minutes. I’m sipping on my diet coke as I sit down.

A few years ago I sat across from a woman who told me she doesn’t go to church on Mother’s Day because it is too hurtful. I’m not a mother, but I had never seen the day as hurtful. She had been married, had numerous miscarriages, divorced and was beyond child bearing years. It was like salt in mostly healed wounds to go to church on that day. This made me sad, but I understood.

Fast forward several years to Mother’s Day. A pastor asked all mothers to stand. On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way. I want no woman to ever feel this way in church again.

Some of her ideas for Sunday if you are going to include Mothers’ Day in your liturgical planning:

1. Do away with the standing. You mean well, but it’s just awkward. Does the woman who had a miscarriage stand? Does the mom whose children ran away stand? Does the single woman who is pregnant stand? A.w.k.w.a.r.d.

2. Acknowledge the wide continuum of mothering.

3. Commend mothering for the ways it reflects the Imago Dei

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Chris H.
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Chris H.

I certainly understand avoiding church when certain times/topics come up--for me, the Pauline topics of husbands,wives, and singles(being single myself) are worst since so many churches(in many different denominations) are not welcoming of singles beyond college. Mother's Day is occasionally painful, but I don't think it should be watered down to all men or all women etc. Yes, lots of people have helped shape us, teachers, leaders, etc. but they aren't mothers and fathers. If you're just going to make it meaningless regarding the special bonds/challenges of parenthood, just say, "Happy Mother's/Father's Day!" at the beginning and forget it for the rest of the service. My mother has used the special services for Mother's/Father's day to get my father, grandparents, to attend and also to introduce/invite some friends and acquaintances with kids to church.

Chris Harwood

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Cynthia Hallas
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I think this can be a tough issue for churches. Several years ago, as the Mothers'/Fathers' Day cycle came around, I reflected on the subject in our parish's May newsletter:

While Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days are not themselves liturgical occasions, they certainly can be pastoral ones. For those who have lost parents, these holidays can be bittersweet as loving remembrance is mixed with a sense of loss. They can be painful for those whose relationships with parents or children have been damaged. They are often extremely difficult for infertile couples and those who have lost children. While the commercial world is touting flowers, perfume, brunch, ties and gas grills, the Church can provide a corrective as we recognize the full spectrum of joy and pain that inhabit human relationships and lift up the opportunity for reconciliation; after all, even the best of relationships have their challenges and experience occasional brokenness.

In the body of Christ, God has realigned the notion of family. While we needn’t (and shouldn’t) give up our familial bonds, we should also reach out to one another beyond those bonds. We look at the men and women who have nurtured, taught, protected, guided, befriended, challenged and loved us throughout our lives, and we look at the children for whom we have done the same. Let us celebrate the gifts of all the women and men who have made each of us stronger in faith, more loving in relationships, and more authentic in living.

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