Scripture appointed within Church of England for Mothering Sunday: Exodus 2.1–10; Psalm 34.11–20; Colossians 3.12–17; John 19.25b–27
This does not just apply to mothers: there are many for whom a father figure touches painful experiences – making not just a feast day difficult, but a relationship with a God who is addressed as “Father.”
How can we be sensitive to those who have bad or sad associations with parenthood? In this case, it may help to consider what the occasion really celebrates. Mothering Sunday is believed to have its origins in displaced workers (servants in most cases) being allowed home for one Sunday to visit family, which meant community, which meant church – “mother” church – since social and religious life were inextricably intertwined.
The meaning of all this goes a lot deeper than breakfast in bed and a bunch of flowers. It becomes about returning to community and roots. The scripture appointed for the day has as a theme the idea of moving away and letting go of one another. The story of Moses illustrates how not one mother, but several caring women contributed to his safety and nurture.
In a community, parenting, or mothering, is something that is a shared responsibility. In the church, we try to acknowledge that fact by recognising all women within the church, with the understanding that nurturing children and youth is something to which each can contribute, regardless of whether they have children of their own, or not.
The words of Jesus from the cross, giving his mother to his disciple and his disciple to his mother demonstrate in a poignant and personal way how the early church had to learn to re-form bonds of family and community. The body of Christ became the new family, the focus of community. It was a hallmark of that early Church that its nature reflected compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience – and above all, love: qualities of good parenting that may be found in a variety of people and a variety of settings.
Mothering Sunday offers an opportunity to be actively inclusive in the best manifestation of Anglican tradition, being sensitive to those who have difficulty, giving thanks for maternity in the many ways (physical and spiritual) in which it can be expressed and experienced – and giving thanks that with all our differences we have a common home in Christ to which we can return – not just on Mothering Sunday, but at any time.