Mother's Day - a day to celebrate and navigate
It’s Mothers’ Day this Sunday and for many of us who are pastoring churches and leading services this gives us much to celebrate but also much to navigate.
To think first about what we have to celebrate on this day, it is good to pause and prayerfully name what we are thankful to God for about mums and motherhood. The potential list is long. Very many will be thankful for the love, example and inspiration they have experienced personally from their mums. Others are thankful to God for designing us to live and learn together in families and the key role mothers play within them. It can be particularly powerful to affirm mums who so often feel (or are made to feel) extra guilt for the life-balance decisions they make.
There is a whole-life discipleship message on Mother’s Day. God calls us to our role in families just as much (or more) as our roles in work and in church and to our roles within every other aspect of our lives.
However, the whole-life discipleship message to our church on Mother’s Day must include the fact that, many have not been given the whole-life family package they wanted or prayed for.
There are those who are single through choice or unchosen circumstances, those who have longed to be mothers, those whose personal experiences as parents or children has been painful and those who have been bereaved and have lost their mums or children.
For the last few years the brilliant charity Home for Good have produced some great resources including a video and prayers to help churches with this navigation. I warmly commend their resources to you – as they say ‘Home for Good wants to equip churches to be great places for anyone to come to on Mother’s Day – whatever their experience of motherhood’.
Part of the answer for many of our churches is to widen the theme and use this Sunday to celebrate the significant and influential role of women within and beyond families whether they are mothers, mother figures or carry some other title. This is a very helpful perspective but I would still offer two cautions:
Firstly, whilst widening the areas in which we can be thankful is helpful, it does not take away the value in acknowledging the ways in which we are sad. As church communities we should always be capable of rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Those who are most thankful for their blessing as mums on Sunday will generally welcome a careful and prayerful recognition that their story is not everyone’s experience.
Secondly, we should be cautious if we make this Sunday the one day in which we acknowledge the positive role of women. However carefully we construct the day some of the heroes of our church who we wish to celebrate will have opted out this week and some will be visiting family.
Finally, it is possible that some, having read this far, will have noted one other navigation issue. Should we call this Sunday, ‘Mothering Sunday’ or ‘Mother’s Day’? ‘Mothering Sunday’ is, arguably, technically correct, in the UK and has a certain degree of church association to it but language moves on and for many, Mother’s Day is the more natural term to use. Either way, it would be great shame if choosing the right title is where our careful navigation stops.