The view from the hill: Mother Church

I have been working on the draft for Blog 2 (and 3, and 4…) but this morning’s meanderings have jumped the queue when a facebook message landed turning my morning into stump-the-pastor-Saturday.

The same pastor (me) that had just spent an inordinate amount of time researching Mothering Sunday.  Or, as tomorrow’s 4th Sunday of Lent is alternately referred to as Laetare Sunday.  [The other names attributed to this festival include Refreshment Sunday, Pudding Pie Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday, Simnel Sunday (“Mothering Buns” or “Mothering Sunday Buns” were made to celebrate) and Rose Sunday.]

I know.  It’s that kind of confusion that gives religion a bad name.  Or in this case, too many names.

It all began when I realized today, March 25, was the traditional observance of the Annunciation.  Yes, I do keep track of such things.   You might know it as the day the Angel Gabriel gave Mary the news – complete with gender reveal and name – of a blessed event planned for Dec. 25th.  [And, yes, I know none of those dates are accurately reported, just celebrated.  Let’s not get sidetracked further 🙂 ]  So when I realized tomorrow is known as ‘Mothering Sunday’ in England and Scotland and parts of Ireland, among others, I thought I had the connection.

I was wrong.

Mothering Sunday is named after a 16th-century Christian tradition of attending the church you grew up in, the place where you were baptized, or the church your mother attends — a day on which people would visit their “mother” church, it falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent. “Going a-mothering” meant traveling to your home church, the place where you came from.  And it is still observed in many ways to this day.

Secular society in America (and Anna Jarvis, not to mention Hallmark and the florists) would eventually transform this tradition into Mother’s Day, celebrated each second Sunday of May here in the Colonies.  However, the Mothering Sunday of Lent historically had more to do with returning to one’s religious roots (and giving servants a day off to do so, too) than celebrating woman’s roles of wife and mother, although going a-mothering often involved little children gathering wildflower bouquets for their mothers on their way to the church.

One interesting tradition from the United Kingdom thought to be associated with Mothering Sunday was “clipping the church,” in which the congregation would stand in a circle around the outside of the church, hold hands, and collectively embrace their church building as a community.

Which should resonate not just one Sunday, but every Sunday.  Because everyone can consider that one-hour gathering every week as a kind of homecoming – return to roots, refresh and renew faith, and spend it with others who embrace like values and beliefs (even when we live out those values and beliefs differently).  [By the way, one of the other traditional names ‘Laetare’ refers to Isaiah 66:10 ‘Rejoice, Jerusalem.’  At coming home. 🙂 ]

Anyway, as I discovered today, returning doesn’t necessarily have to be a Sunday.  Or even take place at a church building.  It can land on my facebook feed as a question posed by a youngster and forwarded by a parent:  because who better to ask than of the faith community the answer to “Who created God and where did he come from”?

We all have questions large and small, and where better to ask them than home?  Among the family that sent you forth – and always welcomes you back.  Just like church.  Just not only on the 4th Sunday of Lent.

Stop by sometime.  Calls and questions and messages always welcome, too . . . Only don’t call me ‘mother’ (unless you’re one of my two sons, that is).

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”  [from Hebrews 10]

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