Saturday, April 02, 2011

Mothering Sunday

The fourth Sunday of Lent is Mothering Sunday. The day has an interesting history , the origins are unclear but it became the custom for young people who worked in service i.e. as servants in big houses to  be given time to visit their 'mother church' , in other words to worship with  the community where they were born and to visit their parents and particularly their mothers. It was known as to go a - mothering and gradually became known as Mothering Sunday. They would often take a gift of a simnel cake which was an opportunity for young women to show off their cooking skills. A  simnel cake is a rich fruit cake with a layer of marzipan through the middle, it was usually saved to eat at Easter as such richness would not have been permitted during Lent. Nowadays simnel cakes are usually made for Easter Day. The tradition of having a day to show appreciation for our mothers , to celebrate and give thanks for all they do has continued and I am glad - saying thank you is important and mothering can often feel like a thankless task. I appreciate the sacrifice, effort and commitment of my own mother and I appreciate being reminded to let her know!

There is sometimes a degree of bitterness vented over the celebration of Mothering Sunday and certainly public celebrations can be insensitive and thoughtless towards those for whom painful memories surface. It is important to recognise that  not everyone has happy memories or a good relationship with their mothers and for some motherhood is equated with loss and grief. Somehow there needs to balance between the celebration of special women in our lives, be they mothers, grandmothers , godmothers or motherly women friends and tenderness towards families who hurt. The church has a responsibility to be a mother to those families.

'Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins maybe wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord'  Acts3:19

The fourth Sunday of Lent is also known as Refreshment Sunday or Laetare Sunday. The word Laetare means rejoice: it is a day for  the relaxation of Lenten disciplines, to look forward to Easter, which is not far off now, and to enjoy the burgeoning spring which hints at the new life that is soon to come. How appropriate this seems to me , we all need refreshment , not just mothers , but mothers do, at times, especially need refreshment. And those mothers  and would be mothers who feel pain, hurt and loss need, more than most , the refreshing touch of God's love and healing.

      'A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed'       Proverbs:11:25

The colour for Refreshment Sunday is pink, the colour of joy.

I am told that I am about to served the biggest breakfast I have ever had! My Mothering Sunday flowers came yesterday, aren't they lovely?.


  1. Great post. The other issue that churches need to think about is how incredibly painful Mothering Sunday can be for women struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss. I think most women in that category simply stay away on Mothering Sunday. Perhaps there isn't an easy answer on this, because yes, motherhood is something to be celebrated.

  2. Hi Iota, thanks for dropping in. It is a tricky one. Church should not be somewhere that people stay away from because they feel excluded or uncomfortable but, unfortunately, often they do. I am sure that there is a graceful solution.


  3. I'm struck by these ex non conformists being so nourished by the churches year-which I think is very helpful.

    point of interest-which I think I don't think I read is that Refreshment/mothering sunday was the day that people in service went home to their families and their 'mother church' so interesting historically for how the poor often have to take work away from the communities that they may find a 'home' and a place of support-they may be relieved to get away of course!

  4. Hi Lucyann, thanks for visiting.
    Indeed, the poor often still have to move away from home in order to find work. Is this another group that the church should be mothering? Immigrants and refugees need mother communities to replace the ones they have left.

    Does this mean I a conformist now?!

  5. Interesting post! I hadn't known all the history behind it so drank it up. Actually our church leader acknowledged very sensitively that some women want to be mothers but never will be or that there were mothers who'd lost their children and gave all the women in the church daffodils and truffles as a celebration of motherhood not just as a physical gift but as something that we're able to offer to others whether or not they are related to us. I thought it was well done.

  6. Our home church in Te Puke also includes everyone on mother's Day. For someone who experienced a lot of pain in the past around not ever having been a Mum it is very special to be recognized too.
    Of course I have many 'daughters' at Rahab. Praise God.

  7. I am glad to hear that some churches do included everyone in the celebrations they hold. Thanks for all your comments everyone.