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Mothers & Mothering Sunday Phil Silk

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:29 am    Post subject: Mothers & Mothering Sunday Phil Silk Reply with quote

Shrewsbury Unitarians
6 March 2016; 10:30am
Theme: Mothers’ Day




Good morning, all. Good to be back with you again. We know that every day is a special day, but today has a cultural label ‘Mothers’Day.’ Every single human being has at least one mother, without whom we would not be alive. The day varies, but people all over the world celebrate motherhood, and have done for eons.. Today let us explore the topic, as we celebrate life through our service of worship together.

Let us now light our ritual chalice. Today let it symbolise the marvellous, mysterious, precious,wavering warmth and light and beauty of mothering.


Since each of us has our own unique connections to the words ‘Mother’ and ‘Mothering’, let us pause now for reflection on these words and our experiences of them…

HYMN 176 (G) “ Come Together in Love” read v.1


As is your custom on the first Sunday of the month, all who wish to light a special candle are invited to come forward and share their concern with us.

READING A Brief History by Louise Rogers

Today is Mothering Sunday . During the 16th century, people returned to their mother church, the main church or cathedral of the area for a service to be held on Leotare Sunday. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone ‘a-mothering’, although whether this preceded the term Mothering Sunday is not clear.

In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours.

BY the 1920s the custom of keeping Mothering Sunday had tended to lapse in Ireland and in continental Europe. In 1914, inspired by Anna Jarvis’s efforts in the United States, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement, and in 1921, she wrote a book asking for the revival of the festival; Constance was the daughter of the vicar of Coddington, Nottinghamshire, and there is a memorial in Coddington’s church. Its widescale revival was through the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad in World War II; the traditions of Mothering Sunday, still practised by the Church of England and the Church of Ireland were merged with the new-ly imported traditions and celebrated in the wider Catholic and secular society,

The commercialisation of the holiday has been relentlessly promoted in the UK; by the 1950s it was celebrated across all the UK. People from Ireland and the UK started celebrating Mother’s Day, but on the same day that Mothering Sunday was celebrated, the fourth Sunday in Lent. The two celebrations have now been mixed up, and many people think they are the same thing.


So – Mothers; Mothering. What do these words mean to you? And why is there a universal urge to celebrate/?

Well, think about it. What is a human being? Ignoring the technical problem of trying to have an absolute definition of the species, we can probably agree that we are mammals who, if we are created by the union of an egg and sperm, which is highly unlikely, need a long time in the womb to develop sufficiently to survive apart from the birth mother. Thirty-six months is the usual time, though we have found ways to keep babies born prematurely alive by providing substitute wombs, incubators, and specialised care; sometimes as young as? 24 months? Even earlier? But such babies may never develop properly, which can lead to drastic disabilities.

Yet even after a safe birth, which is not always the case, infants need long-term mothering to develop enough physically, culturally and personally to be able to survive on their own. How long does that take? Some never seem to become independent, let alone interdependent, which is the best condition. And we all continue learning so long as we live.

What is clear is that without mothers, we just plain would not exist, no matter what the quality of their mothering or of our lives! Therefore, let us be grateful for all the mothers who ever existed, do exist and will exist in the future. (pause)

And let us recognise what a wonderful thing it is that humans can be aware of being alive, that matter in motion has the capacity in humans to have some comprehension of the world in which we live; and some ability to not only seek meaning but also to influence what happens - not only for us, but even in the universe: the great web of existence.

Did you know, according to a quote in the latest READERS DIGEST : ”there are more atoms in a glass of water than glasses of water in the world? What’s more, if you removed all the spaces from all the atoms that make up YOU, you’d be smaller than a grain of salt”? WOW! Yet here we are this morning celebrating life, especially mothers and mothering.

It used to be assumed that the term ‘mother’ meant the genetic mother, the birth mother and the mothering mother. Nowadays these can all be separate, with fertility treatment, surrogate mothers,godmothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, stepmothers, substitute mothers, such as grandparents, who come in very useful these days, even co-mothers and house fathers, plus childcare and nurseries and institutions for raising children to assumed maturity,16?17?18?. However society organises its mothering, everyone needs looking after, which involves more than food, clothes and shelter. Indeed, underage humans need so much more just to survive, let alone thrive. It is one of the most important jobs of a human society to learn how to deal with children,thus to raise successful adults, however you define that varied state. After how many hundreds of thousands of years, we still have a long way to go in understanding and practising satisfying human lives. At least we should realise that it takes teamwork to raise healthy children and adults.

It is one of our main tasks as a religious community to promote rich and rewarding lives for ourselves and for the rest of the world; not just for humans, not just for other life, but for the entire web of existence. We have much to learn, especially about mothering, which is actually not just for children of whatever age. We all need - and give - mothering.

HYMN 249 “Life’ Great Gifts” (read v.1)

READING “We are Connected” by Marika Bryant

We are connected in so many ways
Through the love that we share
24 hours a day
With each touch of our souls
Lending a hand
Helping each other
To understand
Not judging, just acting
On all that we feel
too many times the question is there
Whether we know it or not
To show that you care
I think it’s worthy
I think it’s true
Our love is reflected
In all that we do
Yes, we are connected in more ways than one
All creatures, all beings
Under the sun.

READING “The Spiral Dance” by Skyhawk

Earth Mother, star mother,
You who are called by a thousand names,
May all remember
We are cells
In your body
And dance together.
You are the grain
And the loaf
That sustains us each day.
And you are patient
With our struggles to learn.
So shall we be patient
With ourselves and each other.
We are radiant light
And sacred dark
-the balance-
You are the embrace that heartens
And the freedom beyond fear.
Within you we are born,
We grow, live and die-
You bring us around the circle
To rebirth,
Within us you dance

READING “Mother’s Day Prayer” by Kathleen Rolenz

Spirit of life,
You’ve been a father and mother to us all
We enter this time of silence and reflection
With mixed emotions.
This is mother’s day – a day set aside to honour, celebrate, and in some cases, simply to reflect on those women who gave birth.
Some of us come to this day with joy,
With strong and tender feelings
For the women who have earned the right to be called “mother”.
They not only gave us our lives, they are responsible for shaping our spirit.
They have fed us, played with us, nurtured us, listened to us.
They have given unselfishly for us. They have loved us unconditionally.
If our mothers are still living, we make the extra effort to stay in touch,
And find ways to give back a portion of the love which we have so abundantly received.
If our mothers have died, we take time to cherish our memories of them
Memories which may flood our eyes with bittersweet tears of longing.
We miss her…and we feel that loss even more acutely on this day.
While also being grateful for her strength, her wisdom, her beauty –
And the gifts of life which she has passed onto us.
For others, this day is not a time for celebration,
But rather a time for reflection.
Perhaps we cannot bring ourselves to buy that Hallmark card,
The ones that wax poetically about a mother’s love, or her presence in our lives.
Rather, we may feel her absence, through death or indifference.
We may have complicated, difficult, unhappy associations with ‘mother’.
Instead, may we use this time to reflect on those who have mothered us.
The women in our lives who have been showing their love for us,
Whether through motherhood or mentoring.
Those whose tough, gentle, truth- telling, loving, wise, whimsical women
Who have served as our teachers, our mentors, our guides, our friends.
And on this Mothering Day,
May we remember the Great Mother that sustains us,
Whose body is the very substance of our existence
The very ground we walk upon,
The very source of our being.

I hope you have found Kathleen’s reflections stimulating, as I have. There is much that I like about it. I do, however, want to suggest that her vision leaves out the role of males. Boys and men cannot be biological mothers – a fact I sometimes regret as it must be an amazing experience to carry a growing human being , however difficult it may be; but the only species of males who get pregnant is the sea horse. Nature has many ways of securing the next generation and their survival, though humans do interfere. But all humans can and do contribute to the survival of the human species.

HYMN 193 “We Laugh, we cry” read v 1

We all need, and can give mothering. But we have to be created, first. Untold potential humans, as with all other species, never get born at all. Individual life is one hugely significant and precious result of chance.

To begin with we have a sexual relationship between a fertile female and a fertile male, which actually results in conception, unless we include the possibility of IVF. The chances of that are about 1 in 500,000.
Then the foetus has to develop properly. And estimates show that over %50 are aborted naturally, not counting deliberately. Finally the baby is born undamaged-we hope. Then the infant requires proper growth to sexual maturity- and when is that? 13-16female; 14-17 male, when I was growing up. Now children are developing much younger, which makes life more difficult for them. Nine year old girls with budding breasts; 14 year old boys with breaking voices and facial hair. Some time ago the youngest mother I knew of was only 5 years old. Incredible. Horrible. And the cycle starts over.

How do humans become mothers? A female has sex, willingly or not, as the case is too often, and conception occurs. Some couples get pregnant after one event. Many do not use birth control, risk pregnancy and conception occurs. Some want to delay having children and the birth control method fails; I’m told the only safe method is a sulpha drug: ‘sulpha denial’. Yet some couples try for years before succeeding. Sometimes no matter how desperately the couple want a child, they never do have one. Indeed, sometimes after failing to conceive, people adopt -,and then manage to have their own child. Some adopt instead of having their own – or in addition to having their own, to give a child a loving home. Rarely does it happen because the couple decide ‘tonight’s the night’.

There are many ways of being human, so , of course, there are many kinds of mothers They come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, abilities, motivations, circumstances. Thank goodness they all in their own ways help shape our lives, individually and collectively. I for one am grateful for mothers past and present and to be.

I am glad for those who have felt their experience as mothers have been rewarding. But I know some women have suffered because society has put pressure on them in unhelpful ways. One such pressure was in biblical times when ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ was the demand, as society needed more people to survive. That is no longer the case, as conditions for survival have improved so much China was frightened into ruling that couples could only have one child’, which has caused much suffering. Perhaps you have seen the recent TV series on China. I was particularly moved by the drama “One Child”,.In which we learn of a girl having been left for adoption so the couple could try for a boy. The girl was adopted by a kind English couple. While at university she discovers she has a brother who is sentenced to death, when he was simply an observer. Corruption, politics, family tensions-you could not but feel sorry, especially for the Chine mother.

I also feel sorry for people are made to feel they are letting mothers down by not being able to have children, or worse, not wanting them. Yet I would rather not have mothers who recognise they probably would not be good mothers. Then again, some find they are better mothers than they expected. And so on. The key is for people to exercise responsible freedom, balancing tour own wants and needs with those of others.

One Other problem we have is that we tend to be harsh in our judgements on parents. Philip Larkin put it this way –pardon his language: “ Parents fuck you up, don’t they?” Good thing he had no children. But he lacks compassion as well: if he were correct, he should recognise that parents are the result of other damaging parents. Nobody is perfect, yet we all can help each other. Furthermore, we are responsible for ourselves, for better or worse. Our parents cannot be held responsible for what our children do.

I have been especially aware of this issue recently as mothers have been sharing their incomprehension and misery in response to the behaviour of their own children, usually sons. No wonder they suffer as their youngsters have committed suicide; joined the terrorists; and become serial killers. Awful!

Even the lesser problems of children disappearing or just breaking off all contact, is disturbing.

Fortunately these are not widespread problems. Rather, the support provided by families at all stages of life is the main source of sustenance and pleasure. We could do better, however in sharing the load, and the problems and possibilities, of parenting. Perhaps tribal societies and communes under did the individuality of parental ties, but I hope we continue to seek better ways of raising children and supporting adults .

Enough considering general knowledge. Each of us has specific relationships with our own mothers, however many there are, and some women among us also have particular relationships with their own children. The rest of us have experience of contributing to the lives of children ,and others, to mothering.

Therefore, let us now split into small groups of 3 or 4, where we can share relevant stories of our own. In about ten minutes, there will be an opportunity to share with us all, if anyone chooses to do so.



HYMN 289 “Turn Around” read v 1

Time seems to go a lot slower for the child than it does for onlookers So we have to be and do our best every step of the way.

Did you know that Tuesday is International Women’s day. Women are trying to improve the way society treats them and the way women treat themselves. By working for the rights of women, they are also working on the role of men and of children; we are all interconnected, and it is helpful to have women taking the initiative, so long as they cooperate with each other and with the rest of us. It is inspiring to know, for example, that some teenage girls in Pakistan are openly promoting education for females. There are many other self-help stories. Read POSITIVE NEWS to find plenty of stories of people of goodwill working to improve the quality of life. Or see their website where you will learn how they are improving media coverage of good news.

In June we shall be celebrating Father’s day, with far less history behind it, having become an international celebration only in 1999. It is important to celebrate the role of fathers and fathering in human society.

And in November we should be celebrating International Children’s Day. News to me, as I though we had done so in our local church, but not over here. Sometimes we have Youth Sunday, with GA materials provided. We used to have choric readings and other class contributions, topped off with a plant to take home. I can remember my brother Fred and I rushing home to put our pot where we wanted it planted later. By the time of my younger brother, little individual petunias were the prised gift.
Of course we also celebrate families – and babies at Christmas. And some churches have Sunday school or RE days; and maybe anniversary days, where the focus is on the institutions and associated people.

It is fitting and proper that people call special attention to things of value in our lives. It does not mean that these values are only important on those days; no, everyday a child is born is a sacred day. In a sense, every day should be Christmas. ‘Thanksliving’ should be one of our mottoes.

So three cheers for mothers! And for mothering, Long may they prosper.

RESPONSIVE READING “Children learn what they live” by Dorothy Law Edited)

I invite you now to share a responsive reading with me. I’ll read the small print; you read the large print.

If a child lives with criticism,
If a child lives with hostility,
If a child lives with fear,
If a child lives with pity,
If a child lives with jealousy,
If a child lives with encouragement,
HE LEARNS TO BE confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
If a child lives with recognition,
If a child lives with approval,
If a child lives with honesty,
If a child lives with honesty
If a child lives with security,
If a child lives with friendliness,

How’s that for a guide to positive living? Ideal, yes. Incomplete, yes.
But let us pledge as individual mother, fathers, children,family members, neighbours Unitarians, citizens and whatever other roles we play to recognise that what we do counts; imperfect and limited as we na#may be, it is amazing what one person can do.

I now invite you to contribute to the work of this church.

HYMN 184 “I learned it on the meadow path” (G) read v. 1


The flame goes out; life goes on. When we leave this service celebrating Mother’s Day, and mothering, let us bring with us whatever insight and inspiration we have found with us, so that we can spread our unique light along our way. AMEN

Service Leader: Rev Phil Silk
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