Mothering Sunday traditions in the church can be dated back to the 16th century. It is told that this was the day when people were encouraged to return to worship in their ‘mother church’ where they had been baptised. People who usually attended the local parish church, would make a longer journey to the ‘mother church’ or cathedral of the Diocese. On this day, many girls who were in domestic service were allowed time off from their chores to visit their mothers and their family. A tradition arose where they would bake a gift to show their mothers their new skills and that this was often a Simnel cake.
Today Mothering Sunday is a popular day when Christians choose to use the occasion to think about all things which concern motherhood. We give thanks for the Church as Mother, the Virgin Mary as the mother of Jesus, we remember that God cares for us like a mother and, last but not least, we give thanks for our own mothers.
In our readings today we see that ‘mothering’ is not a role reserved solely for those who have given birth; if it was, I believe that it would be very hard to ensure that all the required nurturing, protection, teaching, loving, guidance etc that is needed to make us the people we are meant to be, would be delivered. Our own children have benefited enormously from this extended love and care; indeed, it was just this kind of care present in the local church that encouraged us to keep our home in the old mining town in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
They are the richer for it and have a long list of ‘honoury’ Aunties and Uncles who helped us to speak the truth and love of Jesus into their lives and they still do.
Moses received the motherly love and care of three women: Jochabed, his birth mother, Miriam his sister and the Pharaoh’s daughter. The richness of personal experience they brought to him and the sacrifice and bravery of these women helped to create Moses into the man that God required him to be.
At the foot of the cross where all the men bar one have abandoned Jesus, we see faithful, grateful, courageous and loving women remain. It would have been a dangerous thing to associate yourself with a man sentenced to death by the Roman authorities and yet it is they who remain.
Mother’s in the Bible are never twee or sentimental; they are brave, and determined and given to their role. In their love, they exhibit so many of the characteristics of the love of God himself and of the sacrificial and servant role that the Church is to give to the community it serves.
Bill Hybels, the head of Willow Creek Church with an average weekly attendance of over 24,000 states that the ‘Local Church is the hope of the world’. As the church of God here in Upper Wensleydale, we are called to display all of the qualities present in these women and to love the community around us with the love of God himself. ere to edit.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale