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Sunday 31st March is the day that has come to be known as Mothers’ Day, although it has no connection with the American day with the same name. In the tradition of the church it is more usually known as Mothering Sunday or Refreshment Sunday.
The name Refreshment Sunday seems to have come about because this Sunday is exactly halfway through the season of Lent. It’s a day when the church cheers up a bit, and maybe allows itself a few treats, before embarking on the most solemn part of the church’s year, as we approach Holy Week and Easter. There’s a special cake associated with this Sunday – simnel cake – which is a fruit cake made with layers of marzipan. Traditionally the cake is decorated with eleven balls of marzipan to represent the eleven disciples (Judas is missing) – an appropriate sweet treat for the temporary break in fasting.
The idea of Mothering Sunday is closely related to this. On this day children in service used to be given time off to go back to their “mother” church and also to visit their families. Along the way they would pick bunches of wild flowers to take home to their mums, a tradition which has developed into something rather more profitable for today’s florists.
Most churches today commemorate Mothering Sunday by offering small bunches of flowers to children to give to their mothers, or, indeed, to offer to every woman in the congregation. As Easter is late this year, I am guessing that UK churches will be having difficulty in finding all the daffodils they need. I am also reminded of the near disaster in my last parish when we had a joint service with the Methodists on Mothering Sunday. We agreed that the two churches would share the job of providing flowers. Unfortunately I failed to realise that when the Methodists talked about “making posies” they were referring to rather elaborate mini-bouquets. The Anglican version, with a couple of daffodils and some wild greenery, fell well short of expectations. Ecumenical working can be a hazardous business.
And we mustn’t forget mother church. For Victorian children this would have been the church where they had grown up. Today, we use it to refer to the mother church of a diocese, that is, the cathedral. So on Mothering Sunday in this diocese, besides thanking God and praying for mothers, we also pray for the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Gibraltar and Holy Trinity Anglican pro-cathedral in Brussels.
Happy Mothering Sunday to you.
Our services: Holy Communion on Sundays at 9.30 am and 11.00 am and on Wednesdays at 10.00 am. Taizé worship on Thursdays at 5.30 pm: next service 28 March.
Chaplain: The Revd Dr Paula Clifford
Tel: 922 38 40 38; Email: email@example.com