A portrait of Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis.
Honoring intentions this Mother’s Day
Jerrod H. Hugenot
May 9, 2019
In the US, early 20th-century Methodist Anna Jarvis led the way in establishing Mother’s Day as an annual observance, recognized nationally in 1914 by Woodrow Wilson by a presidential proclamation.
The day of recognizing mothers appropriately started with Jarvis wishing to remember her own mother, who exemplified a life of peacemaking and advocating for social good.
Alas, the commercialization of Mother’s Day soon followed. Indeed, the first thing we associate with this day is giving a gift, a card, or flowers. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, Mother’s Day cards are a sea of pink pastel colors in the local store’s Hallmark section. Jarvis would spend subsequent years protesting the shift to sentiment and affection when her intentions were far more about pressing social needs being addressed concurrent with celebrating motherhood.
As President Wilson’s proclamation set aside the second Sunday of May for a national observance, pastors and worship planners ponder how best to balance the purposes of Christian worship with the civic holiday at hand.
How you observe Mother’s Day matters. If it tends to be celebrated in a one-size-fits-all manner with great joy, it will be blessedly so for some. For others, it will reinforce a host of reasons why Mother’s Day is a day of mixed feelings. Worship should be a place to recognize and make space for the woman mourning her infertility, a person who had a complex relationship with their own mother, or a family sitting there, realizing again the fresh grief of a departed mother as flowers are distributed and their pew feels much too empty.
How you observe Mother’s Day matters. If it tends to be celebrated in a one-size-fits-all manner with great joy, it will be blessedly so for some. For others, it will reinforce a host of reasons why Mother’s Day is a day of mixed feelings.
I approach Mother’s and Father’s Day with the hope that on a Sunday morning with lots of Hallmark moments being promoted, that we recognize and honor healthy family relationships. We recognize and honor those who mother us, even if not by kinship. Offering words that honor the civic holiday are important, if also accompanied by a caring and inclusive word to those who may have debated whether or not to get up that morning.
An alternative gift might be in order with the late Anna Jarvis’ concerns about what became of Mother’s Day in her lifetime. Some churches participate in raising funds for Church World Service’s blanket fund. Others may take the opportunity to promote local community partners and nonprofits that embody the values of common good.
A card with a donation note will make Mom smile just as much as the flowers that will wilt in a few days.
Rev. Jerrod H. Hugenot is Associate Executive Minister for the American Baptist Churches of New York State.
Want the latest from The Christian Citizen?
Subscribe to Christian Citizen Weekly