Mothering Sunday 22 March, 2020

Iconic Images from the past two decades – session 4 - Lorna Allies

Jacinda Ardern – Prime Minister of New Zealand

You may remember the iconic photograph of Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, hugging a member of the Muslim Community following the Christchurch killings.



Jacinda Ardern is a surprising and inspiring mother. She returned to work seven weeks after giving birth to her daughter in June 2018 and the arrival of daughter Neve Te Aroha changed the Prime Minister’s working day to include three hourly breast feeding.  Neve Te Ahora means Radiant Love from the original Irish and Māori.  This unusual prime minister continued to breastfeed her daughter which meant that baby Neve had to travel with her to New York when she attended and spoke at the United Nations. Jacinda made history as the first world leader to attend the UN general assembly meeting with a three month old baby in tow.

Asked by the Today show on the US NBC network if it was harder to govern New Zealand or take her daughter on a 17-hour flight, Jacinda responded with a laugh and said “It felt at the time on par”.  She revealed that juggling parenthood and the prime ministership had “met her expectations” but the joy she felt at Neve “had far surpassed her expectations”.

It is Mothering Sunday and, before we move on to the main focus of today’s Iconic Image, perhaps we can think about modern motherhood, how we view it personally and how things have changed or are changing.  

Being in touch.

But being a mother does not define Jacinda Adern.  She has another quality which led me to choose this photograph of her as an Iconic Image.

Just over a year ago on 15th March 2019, 51 people were killed in two consecutive shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.  The first of the attacks was live streamed on Facebook for 17 minutes.  It is believed that the gunman was radicalised online and was immersed in an internet subculture of right wing supremacists so that his journey from normal young man to killer was via social media.  This event links us then to our first iconic image of 911 and to Graham’s speaking of the advent of the iPhone and the power of technology.

Jacinda reacted to the Christchurch shootings with compassion and clarity.  She demonstrated real leadership with sympathy, love and integrity.  Out of the horror inflicted in Christchurch this thirty eight year old woman communicated immediately giving as much information as she could.  She said iconic words about the victims ‘They are us’ and the idea of Muslims as separate and different was dismissed at once.   To the killer she said ‘You may have chosen us – we utterly reject and condemn you.’  More than that she refused to name him and give him the notoriety he craved. 

But there was something else. This young Prime minister went to Christchurch and hugged those who were in desperate mourning and held them.  Jacinda Adern is not afraid to be crowded and to touch others around her.  She is unafraid in her tenderness and integrity.  And she became not just New Zealand’s prime minister, but someone for the world to look at and be glad of. Touch and touching is so important and stretching out our hands to touch one another is the most friendly and loving gesture.  Jacinda Adern is a new kind of leader who uses touch to show her faith in and care for others.  She might not say she believed in Jesus but she follows his example.

The Bible reading for this session:

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’  He stretched out his hand and touched him,  saying: ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Matthew 8:1-3

Jesus touched people.  He didn’t push anyone away.  And everyone wanted to touch him.  The woman who was bleeding touched his garment, lepers felt able to come near him and accept his touch.  The disciple who doubted when he returned to them was invited to touch him.

Today. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic we are unable to touch one another.  We must, in order to fight the virus, stay apart and can only smile and wave and there is a new loneliness to this in all societies.  We need Christ’s love and compassion and the motherhood of our loving God more than ever. We can also thank God for modern technology which is helping us all to stay ‘in touch’ virtually.

Let us think about the value of touching one another and how Jesus gave himself so completely in touching others and being willing to be touched.  

A prayer to finish:

God of love,  We pray for every society and individual affected by the Coronavirus.   Let wise and careful decisions be made by all national governments and bring them to a place where they are willing to work together.

Give courage and strength to all the medical staff working to save and heal those afflicted.

Be with all those who feel desperate having lost their livelihoods, their business or their contact with others.

Bring peace to those who are desperately missing the touch of others and the joy of being together.

Help those who are working to produce adequate testing and vaccines and let your healing hand be on those who are suffering from this virus and those who are fighting to stay alive.

We pray in the name of the One who grew and became strong in his mother’s loving care, Jesus Christ. Amen


If we had been in group discussions at our Lent Breakfast, you might have contributed your thoughts.  If you have thoughts or ideas on this session,  please let me, Lorna Allies, know and I will put together a feedback on the session.  My contact details are listed on this website