Mothering Sunday, March 22 2020

Dear Members of Chapel and Friends,

Throughout the year there are opportunities to say a few words during worship about families, and there are services (such as at Christmas and on occasions such as baptisms) when it seems appropriate to reinforce family values, and restate our fundamental beliefs in the importance of families in our efforts to lead a good life.

But there is no other occasion which is more family-orientated than Mothering Sunday.

This year there will be no Mothering Sunday service celebrated at chapel. Alongside our colleagues in the Church of England and elsewhere, our Vestry has very reluctantly agreed to suspend services for the time being as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This action, regrettable and unprecedented as it is, will help to safeguard members.

As yet it is unclear when the virus will abate, but as soon as it does, and it is safe to do so, normal services will be resumed.

Our traditional Mothering Sunday hymn is “Now thank we all our God”. It was written in the 1600’s after a time of war and severe plague, and is surely still most appropriate for us to remember now.

Now thank we all our God,
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever-joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us rich in grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.

If we wish to discover the origins of Mothering Sunday, we have to travel back at least as far as Ancient Greece where the custom of Mother Worship was practiced as part of the ceremonies performed at Harvest festival. With the advent of Christianity these ancient festivals were adopted and adapted to suit Christian thinking, and Mother Worship became respect and honour shown to the Mother Church. The Mother Church was the largest centre of worship in the region, and the smaller parish churches were satellites around that central point.

The tradition of Mothering Sunday was expanded from these origins at a period when it was the normal pattern for children to leave the home, and go to work in the nearby town to become apprentices in the various trades.

Each year, usually at the middle of Lent, child apprentices (some of them as young as 10 years old), would be given a day’s leave to walk home and visit their parents and younger siblings. On the long walk little posies of violets would be picked for mother, and possibly a small simnel cake might also have been prepared as a gift.

Humanity lives in tribes, clans and families, and each differs from the next. It is worth remembering that the image of the ideal family we often see in advertisements and in promotional media is often at odds with reality. When groups of us exist in close proximity, as in the clan or family, stresses and tensions can build up, and difficult and sometimes volatile circumstances can result.

On occasions such as when we celebrate Mothering Sunday, it is very difficult to resist glossing over the differences that may exist, and forget that not everybody’s memories of Mum and Dad and of siblings will be quite so sweet. Notwithstanding, families, as we said, are the commonest condition for humanity to exist in.

In our Christian-based faith, many of us have been brought up with the biblical principles firmly in mind. Exodus 20.12: “Honour thy father and thy mother.” Proverbs 23.22: “Do not despise your mother when she is old.” In his own teaching, Jesus was emphatic to show that the care and love of people for each other was central to his teaching, and that the dignity of everyone ought to be respected.

We end with a “Prayer for Parents” by Rev Derek Smith:

“Spirit of Love, whom we have come to know through the affections we have for each other, we give thanks this day for the love of parents.
Over the years they have fed and sheltered our bodies, and encouraged us in our schooling and in our games. They have often understood us when we were hurt or afraid, and at times been angry or displeased when we did what they thought was wrong,… and yet they never ceased to care for us. For our parents we give thanks.

We who are mothers and fathers, would learn to distinguish between loving and possessing. May we free our children to live their own lives, and not burden them with living our lives. May we provide them with opportunities for fresh explorations, as well as giving them havens of security. May we understand their sensitivities and fears… May we allow them to discover and hold their own values, and not expect them to adopt ours. For our children we give thanks.

As the children step out to meet life with confidence and joy and excitement, may we all know the true bond of a mutual love and a mutual caring. For each other we give thanks. Amen.”

Sunday Service homilies from the Minister during coronavirus period