This Sunday is both Mothers’ Day (in the UK) and Mothering Sunday, and these are not different names for the same thing. Mothers’ Day relates to our mothers, biological or otherwise. Mothering Sunday is the annual thanksgiving for our mother church, the local church where we were baptised, the community of faith that nurtured our faith.
My mother church is St Mary’s Broadwater, far distant on the south coast. I was baptised there when my parents were on furlough from the Philippines. I have never attended that church; but every day of my life, members of that congregation have prayed for me—just as my mother has prayed for me every day of my life. Some of them only met me as a baby; some remember me from summer visits as a small boy; some have left this life to enter the nearer presence of God, joining the great cloud of witnesses who cheer me on. Some have never met me, but have had the baton passed on to them by those who did.
The primary work of love—before and beyond all other forms of nurture, however essential—is prayer. The primary work of a mother and a mother church is to pray for her children, from before they are born and long after they have grown up and left home; even to her dying breath. Even mothers who do not believe in God carry their children in their thoughts, at once within and somehow mysteriously beyond themselves; and that is prayer.
This Sunday I cannot be with either my mother or my mother church. But I will give thanks for both. Their prayers have sustained me, and, in ways we will never know, shaped me towards who I am, and am becoming.