Mothering Sunday has been a popular festival since the 16th century. Its origins are probably several, but in our lifetimes it has been a festival of remembering and of gratitude. Of course, nothing is ever that simple. A significant part of my professional life was spent with people whose lives had been devastated by cruel or neglectful or cold mothers. Other people – mothers - with whom I worked knew only too well the meaning of a sword piercing a mother’s heart.
For some people therefore, Mothering Sunday is a time to remember with pain, and to seek healing from old and deep injuries. For more fortunate people, it is a time to give thanks, to feel glad for what they have received – life, certainly, love too. Perhaps you were fortunate enough to have had a mother who was a wonderful nurturer, a kindly judge of childhood misdoings, an even-handed referee of childhood fights, a well-grounded guide through childhood and adolescence into adult life.
At this service of Holy Communion, I want to suggest to you a further focus for your prayers both of thanksgiving and of intercession. It is about the ways in which women give so much of themselves in mothering – not just to their own offspring, but to their church and to the wider community.
Women who have either chosen or have found themselves to be without a partner, women who have chosen or have found themselves to be without children – many of these are women who know how to offer nurture in all sorts of situations. Women nurture differently to men. Women, more often than not, have different ways to men of seeking justice and resolving conflicts. Guidance and support offered to other people is usually different when it comes from women than when it comes from men. Mothers or not in the physical sense, these women make a different and better world, based on the ways in which mothers work.
For them all, on this Mothering Sunday, we should give thanks. And we should pray that they have the courage and the strength when faced with the pains that go with mothering, to be the women they can be.