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 […]

Sarah Condon / 5.8.19

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.