Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mothering Sunday

Today's All Age Service included the baptism of three children.  The church was unusually full, baptisms and Mothering Sunday had produced an even bigger congregation than usual.
It was a lovely service and was to be followed by a coffee/tea and cake celebration.  Not something i would normally stay for but I had half decided to do so when the children came round and handed out sprays of daffodils to all those they perceived to be 'mothers'.
This was something I had not forseen and I asked the boy who handed some to me to give them to someone else.
He put them instead by the end of the choir stall so I had no alternative but to accept them.
This was not intended as a slight on my part it was instinctive and is the same impulse which makes me shrink when someone I have never met before makes the assumption that I have children.
Having changed out of my robes I handed the flowers to another member of the choir and fled, close to tears out of the church and round to my taxi.
Not every woman has children.  Some never want children, others want them but their partners/husbands do not, and yet others are  unable to have them.  The number of women without children is considerable, yet still the assumption is that all women must be mothers.
I have never at any time in my long life felt more of an alien than at that moment and have never shed tears previously for such an apparently meaningless and purely habit/ritual offering, indeed, I would never if asked, have considered it to be anything other than just another date in the calender with no relevance for me.
My own mother was a wonderful woman, endlessly patient and tolerant of even the worst excesses of behaviour of her children, particularly her intransigent - always - out - of - step daughter.
Despite losing her sight for the last 25 years of her life, having a pace-maker to keep her heart going, and at the end of her life having lost almost all of her hearing too.  She was good-humoured, broad-minded (incredibly so for a woman born in 1905), witty, quiet, self-effacing, and though not a Christian, a thoroughly good woman.
When she broke her hip in the last year of her life, she was no longer strong enough to return home and died in hospital in Eastbourne on Christmas Eve 2008.  She was 103, she was my best friend.  She was my mother and I loved  her and miss her.


  1. Mothers day is a hard one isn't it. We didn't dwell on it at church and my other half preached his sermon about something else just mentioning the day in the childrens address. He did add that the day brought out many emotions in us all,some only know neglect or ill treatment,others have good memories like yourself. I'm glad you accepted the flowers though,you deserve them.

  2. I am sorry today was so hard for you. I did wonder about and pray for women who don't have/can't have children. Daffodils were handed out at my church for everyone-men included.Perhaps that ought to be the case every year.

  3. Ray, it makes me sad that you felt alien and tearful. The church means well by making these gestures, I am sure, but I can understand your feelings. I do think that church is a good place to cry, though, for whatever reason. I have spent a lot of time crying in church, which has allowed me to lay down some burdens in relief.

  4. Tootallburd I think your recipe for Mother's Day sounds about right. Too much emphasis is as bad as too little. A mention in passing would be good enough for me.

    Chelliah Laity Your church's idea of flowers for everyone, men too, is a really good one. It stops individuals from being singled out.

    Penny I didn't intend to make anyone else feel sad on my behalf, but I appreciate the fellow-feeling. As far as crying is concerned, I have wept an occean or two in the recent past but would always prefer to do it in private.

    Many thanks all of you for your kind replies.

  5. At our Mothering Sunday Service the highlight was the lighting of the large Pascal Candle on a stand , which is used for Baptisms. Vicar Mary suggested we all remembered Mothers who were separated from us by death or distance. There was a short silence , it was a beautiful moment. My mother is old and frail, my husbands died when he was 12-both remembered.XX to you

  6. Margaret Hi,
    Thanks for this commment. Another really good idea, to include those mothers no longer with us. Not every Mothering Sunday service need be only about those present.
    Blessings to you and yours.

  7. In the churches where I've worshipped and also where I've ministered we have always given flowers to everyone present, as a gift from Mother Church to her children, rather than as a gift to mothers. We've always spent a lot of time too on preparing intercessions which specifically recognise the pain of this day for those who can't or don't have children or who have lost a child or become estranged from one and also those who have lost or been estranged from a mother. This increasing sensitivity is a very welcome trend.

  8. Perpetua Thankyou for the comment. Perhaps I overreacted but it felt painfull at the time.
    The all-inclusive flowers for everyone sounds a good idea and particularly, the intercessionary prayers.