Don’t Ruin Brunch: A Mother’s Day Primer for the Church

I’ve got an idea for churches this upcoming Sunday. Please just ignore Mother’s Day. I […]

I’ve got an idea for churches this upcoming Sunday.

Please just ignore Mother’s Day.

I do not know why we started to attach the church to this secular holiday, but for the love of all that is sacred and holy, she wants us to stop. I got a desperate note from her in the mail. It was scratched across a Mother’s Day card with a quote from Proverbs 31.

Dear Sarah,

Please complain loudly about church people making Mother’s Day a church function. You know people show up tired, sad, and overwhelmed.

Mother Church

I am simply here to do her bidding.

Ordained people have come up with some pretty terrible ideas about how to “celebrate” Mother’s Day over the years, and you can’t help but wonder how much of it has to do with the fact that the men have been in charge. Here are two actual things that actual churches have done. Get your vomit bucket.

  • There are churches that have you pin a different colored flower (red if your mom is living, white if she is dead) on your church outfit as you are entering for worship. I cannot think of anything more true or painful than having to declare my mother’s earthly plane status on my way into church. Unless you are also assigning people a therapist to sit with them then y’all gotta stop. What if someone’s mother has just died and you do not want people all up in your business? What if she is still alive and a horribly mean person? Is there a flower color for “PASS”?
  • I once heard of a church that did “awards” for all of the mothers that Sunday. An award for the mother who lived farthest away or an award for a mother who had the newest baby. Then the minister asked for the youngest mother in the room to stand. A 13-year-old girl rose from her pew. I just envision the Holy Ghost surrounding that minister with a whole lot of I TOLD YOU THIS WAS A GODAWFUL IDEA energy.

And then, there are the sermons.

Lord Jesus God Almighty don’t you men folk–or women folk for that matter–take to those pulpits and start talking about how your Mama was the best Mama that ever lived. Mothers show up to church already exasperated. They have done much of the feeding, dressing, and yelling that it takes to get children to church. And then they have to endure a sermon where the preacher wants to haul his Mama out like some kind of a saint/notasinner? Look, I say this with love: your Mama was just alright. She did a decent job with you. That is all a human being can hope for. But she missed the mark on empathy if you think this is the time to do a show-and-tell about how the other mothers in the pew need to step up their game.

From The New Yorker. By David Sipress.

Please do not put mothers on a pedestal, especially one decorated with bible verses. We will disappoint you. Weirdly, this seems to be the one day when the church posits that half of the population is without sin. It is like we are choosing to forget that mothers are people too. No one does this on Father’s Day, mind you. Daddies get to be beer-drinking, warm-hugging, occasional cuss-word users. It’s just the mothers who get to be regaled as sinless virgins. Well, ladies, that ship sailed on both of those for all of us a long time ago. I am not Mary the Mother of God, and I hope to God that’s not on heaven’s docket for me.

Also, it probably goes without saying but not everyone has a mother in their family. It’s 2019, y’all. There are families with just a daddy, families with two daddies, foster families, families with grandparents, families with aunts. The church making a day all about mothers is like making a day all about cats. People have strong feelings in one direction or the other. I do not like cats. I would straight up skip church if we had Happy Cat Day. “No thank you, we are a feline-free family and I do not need my kids feeling bad that we don’t have a cat. Also, I had a cat when I was little and it was mean. You will find us at the water park that Sunday. No cats allowed.”

Jokes aside, as many stragglers show up on Mother’s Day ’cause of mom, there are nearly as many who actively skipping church for the same reason.

People who are infertile are not having fun at your Mother’s Day flower festival. These are on-the-ground facts. I had a difficult time getting pregnant with our first child and had two miscarriages between my children. Just secular Mother’s Day could feel like a whole thing. I did not need the church to make my reality feel even harsher.

In our current climate people also see Mother’s Day as the perfect day to talk about God as mother. Well, if you feel so led, I would strongly advise doing it on any day that does not amplify people’s already anxious feelings about their earthly mothers. Remember: just as some mothers are loving encouragers, some mothers are alcoholics. Some are pleasant and kind, some are angry guilt-pushers. And that is just one pew of people. There is no need to drag God into that mire. Sometimes we hope to redeem the God as Father language by “fixing” it with God as Mother. It’s like people have never seen that Joan Crawford movie.

To be clear, I love the idea of being celebrated. I love any day that my children make me a card and fix me Cheerios with water for “breakfast.” I’m here for that. But I do not need any of my church airtime to be taken away from our Risen Lord.

Because I show up at church Sunday after Sunday to hear the Gospel. I’m a mother who is full of mistakes and sin and regret. And my kids aren’t even in middle school yet. I’m the daughter of a woman who got some things really right and some things really wrong. Because she was no more a super-woman than I am. And the last thing I want to do is show up at church and have all of that handed back to me in the almighty name of Mother’s Day. I show up at church to give my sin and sorrow to Jesus. Please do not make church about me. I’m no good at saving people.

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19 responses to “Don’t Ruin Brunch: A Mother’s Day Primer for the Church”

  1. Brad J. Gray says:

    Sarah, thank you for this piece. Very well said.

    • Jo.Reilly says:

      As it was my /our turn on the roster this Sunday as Welcomers I actually did ..ponder at one stage to give “Mother’s Day White flowers” But then decided ….. how/who to give them to?.. how could I differentiate?
      Mums may like to be acknowledged… but Mums who are sad not able to be or whatever their circumstances.
      Nah not a good idea.!!! Also, still miss my Mum, sad time for me. Funnily enough too Mum was allergic to these particular flowers . Interesting too they are WHITE.

      • KTyson says:

        That is a huge question isn’t it? When I was in my late 20s, I caught on fire trying to rescue my children from our burning home. I was the only survivor.

        I avoid going to church (or anywhere) else. Not everyone knows my children died…can you imagine asking someone like me “Are you a mother”?

  2. Jim Moore says:

    “Weirdly, this seems to be the one day when the church posits that half of the population is without sin.” – THIS LINE IS BRILLIANT!

    • Karla says:

      it’s also totally off base and not rooted in reality. Mothers can sin and still be recognized as honorable.

  3. kallie says:


  4. Gwen Martin says:

    The celebration of Mother’s Day in church is tough for any mother whose child has died. And if your ONLY child has died, it re-starts that tape in the brain that says “Am I still a mother?” Being greeted repeatedly by people saying “Happy Mother’s Day!” is sad and awkward.

  5. SusanC says:

    Preach it, Sister! I spent years emotionally armoring up to take my childless self through the church doors on Mothers Day. After my own mother died I couldn’t take it any more. I’ll be at home – not answering the door or the phone – thank-you-very-much.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    LOVE this so much! ????????❤️

  7. Allen Bergstrazer says:

    This is one pastor that completely agrees. When I first began in the ministry 20 years ago, it was common practice to ask all the moms to stand up and be recognized (as if we didn’t know who they were already). I stopped this because of a woman whose son was in prison for murdering her husband, her other son had died of a congenital heart condition, and she raising her grandson because her daughter had also died of the same congenital heart condition. When you look at your congregation and you see the childless, the miscarriages, the abusive parents, and the herculean efforts that people go through to get through a day, ditching all the mother’s day schmaltz isn’t so hard.

  8. Phil Wold says:

    As an adoptive parent, I know too well some of the difficulties of Mother’s Day.
    As a child with a mom, I know too well…
    As a father with children, same…
    It seems to me that addressing the fact that Mother’s Day is, (like family, like life) – a very complex and complicated thing – can be a Gospel move.
    For those for whom it is joy – great.
    For those for whom it is difficult, for those for whom it is a mix of both, acknowledging that fact, and proclaiming that Jesus came to that very mixed life of yours, has proven to be life giving for people.
    Thank you Sarah, for another thoughtful and life-giving post.
    And Happy Mother’s Day…

  9. Jen says:

    THIS!!! I’ve been really grateful the last few years for the articles leaning into the pain and awkwardness of Mother’s Day, but this is the piece that is most near my feelings about how churches approach the day.

  10. Molly W says:

    Thank you!!! This coming from someone that has no negative vibes on Mother’s Day. I have a wonderful momma. She is still living. She made mistakes but she pointed me to Jesus. I have 3 lovely children and blessedly avoided fertility issues and miscarriages. Even so, on Sunday at church, just give me Jesus!

  11. Pat Graves says:

    This article is very well articulated and well demonstrated. I decided last Sunday that I would not go on Mothers Day. I rarely miss and always feel my Momma with me. She died in May. May would be their 70th wedding anniversary married in our church. 35 years ago, in May, she celebrated my wedding in our sanctuary.My husband 8 years now a horribly disabled stroke patient at home. May 12Th is our anniversary Mothers Day. 6 years ago in May, she was there for my sons wedding. 5 years ago in May I took her to her last worship service there. 4 years ago in May she died. No I do not want to celebrate Mothers Day in my home church and I do not want to be celebrated. I am a sinner. I am bitter, angry, hurt, grieving, sad, and pitiful. I have lots of bad days. I simply can not fake through church on literally my sadness day of the year. My sons honor me everyday of the year. I am blest beyond measure as a Mother.

  12. Alisa says:

    Agreed. Struggling with honor your parents part. My Mom made some life altering mistakes with me and she did the best she could. She has early Alhzeimer’s and soon won’t remember any of it. I can decide daily what to shred and what to shed. Bless the Lord!

  13. Dan Foster says:

    This is well stated and the women who started Mother’s Day as a way to remember the mothers who had lost their sons during war might well be aghast at how we celebrate this intentionally simple remembrance (using affordable carnations) by elevating mothers and creating an impossible mold for all women to fit into.

  14. Brian H. says:

    Skipping church this week. Also skip church on Teacher Appreciation Sunday and Sunday closest to July 4.

  15. Karla says:

    Good grief talk about missing the point!! Mothers are showing forth the Image of God. Take the day to honor your mother— in keeping with the command. You don’t have to make it about you for the church to mention mothers.

  16. […] Sarah Condon begs churches to skip anything Mother’s Day related. “I show up at church to give my sin and sorrow to Jesus. Please do not make church about me. I’m no good at saving people.” […]

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