When I was a child, my mother cut red roses from her garden and pinned them on our church clothes. We, her five children, wore red roses, and she wore a white one. She explained the wearing of roses was to honor our mothers both living and deceased. As an elementary-aged child, I did not question this tradition of wearing roses to church.
When I was in seminary, roses on Mother’s Day led to an emotionally charged moment in worship. On that fateful morning the young children of the congregation went to the front of the sanctuary to be handed a rose to give to their moms. Gleeful little faces ran back to moms with calls of “This is for you, Mommy.” What a sweet moment until a woman in the front started yelling, “I want one. I want a rose.” This woman was a special needs adult who attended regularly. We all knew her, or so we thought. Turns out, she was yelling because she wanted to be a mother. She had asked her parents and her caregivers if she could have a child. She had been told, “No.” When those roses were passed out, her heart collapsed into pleas of wanting a rose, or as I now know, a child. The quick thinking, compassionate person seated next to her procured a rose just for her. In that moment, I began to question celebrating Mother’s Day as a part of corporate worship.
Later on, I served as a staff minister for another church. As we were planning worship for May, the music minister listed the hymns adoring godly families and loving mothers that he had chosen, and the pastor asked if the floral committee was doing the arrangement of roses. Remembering the cry of the lady who so wanted to be a mother, I asked, “Why are we celebrating mothers when so many families are blended? When there are people who are alienated from their mothers? When there are families struggling with fertility issues? Why not just celebrate worship as usual?” I was told by the other church staff, “Our congregation will expect us to celebrate Mother’s Day. There will be angry voice messages and curt comments later in the week if we ignore mothers. We can’t ignore Mother’s Day. Therefore, we will do as we have always done.”
It is easy to fall into the pattern of doing as we have always done while ignoring the real lives of our congregants. It is easy to forget that motherhood, either being a mother, wanting to be a mother, or losing a part of the mothering role, is complicated. Mother’s Day while joyous and sentimental for many congregants is a reminder of unhealed hurts and unfulfilled desires for others. My question is “Should we honor mothers during corporate worship when doing so causes discomfort to those for whom mother is not a joyous, sentimental role?” I come from a long tradition of honoring mothers at church, but I also value the stories of friends and family who feel the pain of attending worship and feeling singled out because they do not have a good relationship with their moms or because of fertility issues. I believe worship should be a place of welcome and healing for all. Therefore, I now question whether Mother’s Day should have a spot in corporate worship.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.