Mothers Day is not a liturgical holiday, but many congregations tend to treat it like one. After all, it falls on a Sunday.
Addressing the Pitfalls of Mothers Day in Church
There’s a negative side to celebrating Mothers Day in church. Plenty of women don’t find their hearts lifted by the sight of pink carnations draped over a Bible. These women could include:
- People whose mothers have died in the year past.
- People who are estranged from their mothers.
- Women who have always wanted to be a mother, but are not.
- Women who don’t want to be a mother, but are.
- Women who had an abortion and have complicated feelings about that part of their past.
- Birth mothers who have given a child up for adoption.
- Adoptive mothers who are struggling with their role as mothers.
- People who were adopted and have never met their birth mothers. (The list could go on)
As a daughter/mother/pastor, I urge church leaders to be sensitive about how fraught this day can be.
Our Cultural Myths vs. Reality
Mothers Day and church is a combination that takes all our cultural myths — about the role of women and mothers, and what makes them worthy of esteem and love and respect — and shovels it into a powerful package that can land with all the finesse of dynamite!
Our culture loves to sentimentalize motherhood — drenching it in pink and sprinkling it with candy and flowers. Go ahead, use the soft focus lens and some sentimental music. But the reality is that most women still don’t have decent maternity benefits (not to mention a paycheck similar to their male counterparts).
What’s worse, our legislators are eager to pass laws about female reproductive organs. The leaked news from the Supreme Court is devastating — and threatens to set us back decades!
(Read a long-form essay of mine on the subject of abortion.)
Outlawing abortion is not the only attack against women and girls. There is resistance to insuring the very things that reduce the need for abortion (such as insurance coverage for birth control and support for domestic violence shelters). Some of these things (such as prenatal care and maternity care) ensure the very continuation of the species! Many women/mothers face impossible situations that men/fathers do not — read an older post here which is unfortunately still applicable.
Please Just Stop with the Carnations
To put it plainly — Mothers Day shines a spotlight on how inconsistent and contradictory our culture is about the role and worth of women. Combining those schizoid messages with what the Bible and the “church family” supposedly proclaim about motherhood, and the result is less than loving! It’s actively harmful to many, a real wallop.
I urge pastors, on this Mothers Day, to celebrate all that is good and lovely about family life — and at the same time to exercise kindness and compassion in our celebrations. Can we be gentle with each other? We don’t know everything about each other’s stories. Share joy, but allow room for grief and sadness.
Better yet, let’s all just stick to the scripture text for the day, and script a thoughtful pastoral prayer that encompasses a whole range of experience. Let’s stand in support of women and girls.
Margaret Perella says
You should include mothers who have lost a child, young or adult, in your list…..
Rev. Catherine Erwin says