(This post originally appeared on my previous blog on Monday May 10th, 2010. You can view the original post at http://www.stevelamotte.blogspot.com/2010/05/should-churches-celebrate-mothers-day.html)
There was an interesting sidebar in the current issue of Christianity Today asking some Christian leaders as to whether or not Christians/Churches should celebrate Mother’s Day (link goes to article on CT’s website). Our church does some sort of Mother’s Day recognition. It changes every year, but the conversation around the issue is interesting to consider. The comments in the magazine ranged from those who believe we should, such as Sally Morganthaler–
“Absolutely, we should celebrate motherhood. The fifth commandment establishes parenthood as a holy calling. But, it also makes good sense to acknowledge “cultural rhythms”- like certain secular holidays- liturgically, to recognize there is no place God isn’t.”
There is the moderate view of author and pastor Trevin Wax (Click on his link to read his post about Mother’s Day),
“We shold want to honor mothers. But because this has become a consumerist holiday (like Valentine’s Day), we should consider deeper issues about how we order our time and make sure we aren’t simply catering to the whims of our consumerist culture.”
Author Caryn Rivadeneira says,
“It’s great to acknowledge it. But there is the ‘cult of the family,’ where motherhood tends to get so elevated in churches that it’s above all else. Sometimes that’s the knee-jerk treatment, to make it the highest and holiest of callings for women. That’s a problem.”
Finally, the view of William Willimon, Bishop in the United Methodist Church,
“One of the biggest threats to theology today is not fundamentalism; it’s sentimentalism. Mother’s Day apppears just another occasion to say, “Christianity is feeling something mushy in your heart.” We all get sentimental about our mothers.”
From the standpoint of the Church, I wonder if maybe we make too big of a deal out of Mother’s Day. Certainly, I am thankful for my mother and all that she did for me. I am amazed by my wife, Andrea, in how she is a great mother. Looking around the church and our communities, Mother’s Day can be a day of sorrow and loneliness too.
- I spoke with a seminary classmate- who is studying for an M.Div. and a leader in the church. She told me last week that she experienced four late term miscarriages and was never able to have children. As a Christian leader- she said it was extremely difficult to attend worship on Mother’s Day.
- As I looked around Church on Sunday- there are other women who are unable to have children- or maybe never married- or lost their children through some tragedy. I wonder as we elevate the role of mother in our churches if that feels like a slap in the face to those without children.
- I’m curious how Mother’s Day feels for a child of any age whose Mother was a lousy example of a mother. Maybe she was abusive or detatched emotionally. Mother’s Day then causes the child to think about what he/she never had in a mother.
- When it comes to worship, many Mother’s Day sermon become speeches about the virtues of motherhood rather than a proclamation of the Good News of Jesus. Many Mother’s Day sermon could be given at a civic organization without offending anyone because the emphasis is on mother’s rather than God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ.
I have to admit that I am more in the camp of Caryn Rivadeneira and Will Willamon that churches should be careful how we elevate Mother’s Day or any other special day. The focus of the church is to be about the worship of God. Our times of worship as a community are about praising God for what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ- not about sentimentalism about our mothers. We need to make sure our worship is decidely Christian and not some cultural.
How does your church celebrate/recognize Mother’s Day? Do we make too big of a deal about it? Not big enough? Talk it out in the comments below!
Steve, I love, love, love your blog. I always read your posts. You are the only Evangelical blogger that gets that from me (not that my tired old church queen endorsement amounts to much).
Episcopal Churches do not celebrate Mothers Day. Our churches are bound by the rubrics of our prayer book and Mothers Day is not a date on our our liturgical calendar. The Marian feasts which commemorate her life (5 or 6 times per year depending on your churchmanship) provide an ample opportunity for clergy to pray for mothers etc. At tiny sentimental St. Bart’s in WV we will continue to celebrate Easter tomorrow (as we are in the great 50 days). Jesus’ resurrection is more important than momma’s Bible (sorry moms). As the one who designs and often leads worship in the absence of a priest I offer a compromise to the ladies in lieu of non mother themed worship. At the close of the liturgy for the day, the moms are greeted with a happy mothers day. A carnation is offered to everyone for their personal “altar” at home and they are encouraged to pray for any woman in their lives. We pray for dead people so this isn’t a stretch for people.
John- thanks for your thoughts (and endorsement!). I agree that our primary reason for coming to worship is to worship God for what God has done in our lives through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. One thing we have done is have the children come forward to take a carnation to all the adult women in the congregation- not just celebrating moms- as many other women play important roles in our lives and in our church.