There are always empty seats in Church on Mothering Sunday
Today, most if not all churches in the UK will be empty. But Lizzie Lowrie reminds us that even before the Corona Virus pandemic, many avoid church every year on Mothering Sunday
My husband and I decided not go to church on Mothering Sunday (or Mother’s Day as it’s commonly known) whilst he was training to be a vicar. Our deliberate avoidance of church during his years of training didn’t exactly set the best example, but I’d just had my sixth miscarriage and everything had changed. I still knew God loved me, but the church’s celebration of mothers on that day told me my story and my pain didn’t belong in church.
I know the history of Mothering Sunday has nothing to do with fertility but that doesn’t make it any less painful. Every church talks about being a family, but on this one day of the year we hold a service that not only isolates many people, but also causes them pain.
Those who have lost mothers, never knew their mothers, have difficult relationships with their mothers and those who long to be mothers but can’t, will decide not to go to church because they believe their story doesn’t quite fit.
Jesus’ calling to follow him requires us to embrace a new family and a new identity, but somehow over the years we’ve watered down this radical change of loyalty from earthly families to the family of God and re-ordered our priorities to look like this:
But Jesus’ call to follow him was inseparable from his call to become part of his alternative family. In the early church, their loyalty to God and fellow believers was not separated from their faith and this transformed their priorities into:
- God’s Family
- My Family
If this list represents Jesus’ design for church family then where does Mother’s Day fit? Surely the church has something to say to those who feel isolated by this day - more than a “well done” to mothers who fit neatly into the perception of the perfect Christian family?
There is a growing secular response to the isolation Mother’s Day brings, including initiatives such as the Thoughtful Marketing Movement started by florist Bloom and Wild who offer an ‘opt-out’ of Mother’s Day marketing. Their opt-out campaign was even mentioned in Parliament in 2019 by an MP who talked about his dread of Mothering Sunday since losing his mother.
Jesus’ vision for authentic Christian community doesn’t just challenge us to be more considerate of another’s pain, but to suffer with them as one body. Jesus’ vision for the church calls us to realign our priorities and place our family of faith above our earthly families. When the church was family it was on fire and I pray we can recapture Jesus’ vision for authentic family because we have a greater message than compassion for those in pain and it’s an invitation to be part of God’s alternative family.
Lizzie Lowrie is an author, speaker and church planter living in Liverpool. She has just published a book on miscarriage, infertility and faith entitled ‘Salt Water and Honey; Lost Dreams, Good Grief and a Better Story’ (Authentic Media 978-1788930956).
She says, "Whether you’re grieving the loss of a mother or never even knew your mother. Whether you've experienced the loss of a child or a baby through early death. Whether you’re struggling with infertility or childlessness. Whether you're facing unwanted singleness or a difficult relationship. Or whether there is any other reason why you might find Mothering Sunday painful - you are welcome here."
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