Mothering Sunday has always been one of my favourite festivals! As a child, it meant an especially nice tea! On ‘Mid-Lent’, ‘Mothering’ or ‘Refreshment’ Sunday my mother - who kept Lent faithfully - always took advantage of this Lenten pause. It meant Simnel cake, something chocolate, flowers for our Grannies. As I became older and Lent had more meaning for me, I too enjoyed the respite; although I have to admit that returning to some Lent rules, after a traditional breaking of them, was sometimes quite difficult. I particularly remember the year I gave up sugar in my tea! It was really, really hard. But, when I drank tea with sugar that Mothering Sunday, I hated it. And never returned to it! I had to find another Lent discipline after that.
This year Mothering Sunday faces us all with difficult challenges. It is always a Sunday with great paradoxes. Terribly painful for those who have been denied motherhood, for a myriad of complex reasons. Also painful for those whose relationship, either with their mother or with their child, is fractured, or damaged, seemingly beyond repair. Sad for those of us whose mother has died, particularly when it is the first Mothering Sunday after that bereavement. But this year, with so many older people in enforced distance and isolation from family members, many of us will have to find new and different ways to celebrate that special mother/child relationship.
Finding new and different ways of celebration and commemoration is also important as we reflect upon the other meaning of Mothering Sunday. Originating in the sixteenth century, it was a day for Christians to return to their ‘Mother Church’: their parish church or cathedral. This became the Sunday when young people, in service (sometimes as young as 10) were allowed to go home to see their mothers, collecting wild flowers on the way to take a posy home.
Visiting our ‘Mother Church’ is just not going to be possible this year, but neither is visiting those who cared for us as children, nor will we receive visits from our children if we come into the vulnerable category.
Christian ministers of all denominations have been agonizing about how to care for their congregations and communities at this time as the terrible news of the corona pandemic has unfolded this week. Maybe, this Mothering Sunday, we can commit ourselves to some time in remembering in prayer those who cared for us and nurtured us as children, but also for those people, men and women, who have cared for us and nurtured us as we grew in our Christian faith. Many of us are feeling bereft that we won’t be ‘in church’ on this or any Sunday for the foreseeable future. However, the church remains alive, and praying, and every one of us can be part of that prayer. The church buildings in Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Teversham are very precious to us all, but they are emphatically not the church. We are the church, every one of us. Let’s use this time of isolation and seclusion as time to deepen our faith, and to return to Mother Church in our minds and hearts. This will all end, and we will be back to worshipping together, and in the meantime, let us spend time with God, who mothers us every day of our lives, and who will give us the care we need in these weeks if only we allow him to!
God our challenger and disturber,
help us to confront
all that makes for death and despair
in our lives, our communities, our world.
May we never lose sight
of the possibility of transformation
and be continually surprised
by people who believe in one another.
Iona Community, March 2020