Saturday, 9 March 2013

Lent for Extroverts 22: The mother of all confusion

One of the spin offs of the 'personalisation' of faith in these post Freudian times is the emotional/ecclesiastical complications around Mothering Sunday. 

When, in bygone years, it was simply the fourth Sunday in Lent, Laetare Sunday, ('Rejoice' Sunday) and a chance to revisit the 'Mother Church' (the main church or cathedral for your area) I doubt anyone leading worship stressed the day before about how many ways they might unwittingly upset people in church the next day, through forgetting to mention mothers; mentioning them too much; forgetting that some have lost their mothers; or never knew them, or were adopted or abused. Or by dwelling on gender stereotypes ('O God we thank you for our mums who always wash up')...Then there are those women who have lost a baby, never wanted one or who want one but can't conceive. If you're not careful, or are an over sensitive church leader yourself, not to mention also a mother, it can soon become a complete minefield. 

The glorification of motherhood may well be one of the reasons modern mothers are so stressed, minutely organising every spare moment of their children's lives until they entirely forget the importance of temporary boredom for the developing imagination. We want to have happy, healthy, competent and gifted children otherwise we feel we've failed. So feelings may be running high on Mothering Sunday, especially if at least one family have hot-footed it from the swimming lesson to get there for 11 am.

And if you, as a youngish Church leader, have a slip of the tongue, and call it 'Mother's Day' by mistake, not only will you greatly upset some older brethren but you will also fall foul of the more liturgically sensitive, whatever their age, with cries of 'Americanisation, blah blah; Hallmark Cards; blah, blah...civilization collapsing, blah, blah, blah....

Others are confused too. I know of one pub near here who appear to have thrown caution to the wind and who, either in a fit of utter inspiration or unintentional dyslexia, are advertising a special meal for 'Mothers Sunday' (no apostrophe).

And so to the refreshingly stark story of Hannah, in the book of Samuel, crying out to God for a baby, after barrenness has become her sad lot in life. When 'God hears', and baby Samuel is born (meaning 'God hears') she vows to give him back to the Lord, to live at the House of the Lord as soon as he is weaned. The parting of a mother and a tiny son in this way is unimaginable to us, but Hannah's perspective was wider than just a mother's. She had eternal perspective. Being alone in the House of the Lord with the elderly priest Eli would not be the sort of life we would envisage for today's toddler, but I like to think he was mothered by God instead.

So whether you're preparing to wear pink Laetare vestments, or to give your mum a bunch of pink flowers, or both, I propose a celebration of the non-stressy, non-clingy and eternally steadfast mothering of God.


  1. No pink vestments for me tomorrow, though the flowers I bought for my Mum (she'll get them on Monday) are pink. Yep. Mothering Sunday is a minefield - rates just behind Remembrance as most anxiety-inducing Sunday of the year for me.

  2. Good article sparked some good thoughts and original page layout!

  3. Not an easy one for me this year falling the day before my mother's anniversary but our vicar did a very good job encompassing all aspects of the day. He even included a quote from the Simpsons in his address which our two teenagers liked!