Mothering Sunday 22 March 2020

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Collect for Mothering Sunday

God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself: strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Gospel Reading: John 19.25-27

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Mothering Sunday Reflection - Edward Carter

This is the strangest Mothering Sunday I can ever remember.

Over the past week almost every plan and meeting I had in my diary has been cancelled or postponed – not just meeting up with someone for a coffee, but big things too. If you’d told me a week ago that all our services at St Peter Mancroft would be cancelled because of a letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, I’d have laughed in disbelief. The covid-19 virus is affecting everything.

So this Mothering Sunday there will not be any formal acts of worship at church. We won’t be watching the children giving posies of flowers to members of the congregation. And if we had a special lunch planned there’s every chance we’ve had to cancel that as well.

We’ve had no choice but to let go of all these things.

Mothering Sunday, which is always the Fourth Sunday in Lent, invites us to think for a moment about what ‘mothering’ really means. To put it another way: what’s the true essence of ‘mothering’?

One answer might be to do with love, and of course mothering does involve love. This is true regardless of who is actually doing the mothering, although we do all have a biological mother. And we need to remember that some mother-child relationships are complicated. Love can be a challenging thing to give and to receive.

Another answer might sharpen the love and speak of sacrifice. This is the self-giving love that thinks only of the other person, and will do anything for them. There’s certainly an aspect of mothering which embraces this.

But this year, as I’ve been reflecting on everything that’s happening, I’ve been wondering if the heart of mothering is to do with ‘letting go’.

A good mother will do the thing that is against every instinct, but which is crucial. She will gradually let go of the child who has started life deep within her body, freeing this new person to find their own place in the world. Letting go doesn’t mean ignoring, or not being passionately interested. Letting go in fact means accepting the true meaning of love – sacrificial love.

Our short gospel reading for Mothering Sunday describes a scene of ‘letting go’. In the most painful and anguished of situations, Jesus tells his mother that she must let go.

At this stage there are no words of hope from Jesus. It’s hard for us to remember how tragic this moment is for Mary – we know how the story will go, but she did not.

But as the events of the next three days unfolded, even Mary discovered where the ‘letting go’ would lead. It led to freedom, to new life, to a changed world.

The Archbishops’ letter on Tuesday included words about a new way of expressing our Christian faith in the coming weeks. This will be without formal worship, but must still include prayer as the foundation for something new. We need to ask ourselves, what am I being set free to do as I let go of all the old certainties?

It seems clear that, whatever happens, the world we know is going to be changed by the events of this year. The old ideas of ‘progress’ will have to be re-thought. We will have to ‘let go’ of all sorts of things.

And this is painful. It can result in anger and frustration. I was sad to hear about some of abuse staff at the Theatre Royal received last week, from customers who were angry about cancelled shows. As their Chaplain, I’ve been praying for them all, because they are coping with ‘letting go’ too.

Mary, at the foot of the cross, had every right to be angry. Maybe she was. But in the end she saw that ‘letting go’ resulted in a new freedom and a new birth.

Christians believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus completely changes how we see the world. Instead of being locked into the old self-serving certainties, God reveals to us his creation as a place in which our ingenuity and thirst for life is in tune with his purposes.

So, this is the strangest Mothering Sunday I can ever remember. There won’t be any formal acts of worship, but the church will be open between 11.00am and 2.00pm – a place of prayer and sanctuary.

And we have made the traditional posies – a sign of the beauty and freedom that God promises us. They will be in the church for anyone who wants to take them.

May God bless us as we hold fast to him in our lives.


Intercessions Helena Carr

This Mothering Sunday we pray for the gift of motherhood. As we are reminded of the beautiful relationship of nurturing affection between Jesus and his mother Mary, let us also remember and be grateful for all the love and care we have received from mothers in our lives. We thank them for their loving protection, wisdom, comfort and support, their unconditional and selfless devotion, a model of the love our Lord God has for us all.

We pray also for mothers who, like Mary, have experienced the incomparable pain of losing a child and those who yearn for, but are denied, the gift of motherhood. Lord, you who know what it is to lose a child, give them your comfort and hope in their torment and strengthen them with your love.

As we deal with the impact of Covid 19, Lord protect and console those in our own communities, and those around the world, who will find this a time of overwhelming grief, fear, and anxiety: those who mourn the dead; those who are fearful for their health and well-being; those who will work long hours and risk their own health to care for the needs of others; those who will become, or already are, isolated and lonely; those who are worried about their loved ones, those who are concerned about losing their livelihoods and homes; and those whose lives are already extremely precarious for whom this brings even more uncertainty and vulnerability. Christ, you are the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

In this time of uncertainty, rapid change and upheaval, let us remember Lord that you are our rock, our shelter amidst the storm, whose guiding love shows us the way out of fear and anxiety towards acceptance of your will and the comfort and hope of our salvation. Help us to be at peace with the things we cannot control and to take joy and consolation in the opportunities this crisis can give us to help those around us in our communities. Let us use this exceptional change from the normal bustle and distractions of in our daily lives to step back, reflect and reassess, renew and re-centre, and to reach out and reconnect with you, our Redeemer, and with the people around us.

We pray for our Bishops Graham, Jonathan, and Alan, and for our own ministry team here at Mancroft, for Edward, Fiona, Lorna, Graham, and Gill as they prepare to adapt their ministry in order to continue their steadfast care for our spiritual needs. Lord, though we may not be able to gather in fellowship to praise you in our usual way, keep our church community strong and faithful to you and to each other. This week in particular we also pray for the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Church in Hong Kong) and its archbishop, Paul Kwong. Their province has endured so many troubles in recent times: protect, care, and strengthen them in their faith as they face this new healthcare emergency.
Almighty God, healer of all, we pray for any who suffer in mind, body, or spirit, and those who care for them. In a moment’s quiet, we bring before you, Lord, those who are known to us personally. Give them your grace, comfort, and strength to sustain them through their distress. We remember also those mentioned on the prayer board, and these people by name: Pam, Simon, Janet, Brian, Martin, and Val.

Lord of eternity, we pray for all departed souls, entrusting them to your unfailing love and mercy. We pray in particular for Rosamund Thomas and at this Year’s Mind, Roger Bamford, Stephen Penney, Elizabeth Richardson, Gwendoline Turner, Audrey Soanes, Mary Cousins, Greta Ong, Eileen Durrant, and Richard Workmaster. Grant unto them, eternal rest O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.