Material for Worship on Mothering Sunday

Nerys writes: For a number of years, our Mothering Sunday services at St Mary’s have been all-age gatherings but today is a rare opportunity for a reflection aimed at adults only.

For many, this is normally a happy day, a time to show our love and gratitude to our mothers, to receive cards and gifts from our children and to enjoy precious time with our families. For some, however, this celebration of motherhood brings the pain of longing, loss, grief or guilt. For those of us who were here in Dunblane in March 1996, Mothering Sunday is inextricably linked with memories of the tragedy that struck our community. And now, it will also carry a reminder of the beginning of the first Lockdown and all the suffering and loss caused by the pandemic. Mothering Sunday can be a bitter-sweet day but it is also an opportunity to remember that we have a mothering God whose care for us extends throughout our lives and beyond and who has promised to be especially close to us in difficult times.

So, as you light your candle today, take a moment to bring to mind what Mothering Sunday means to you and to share your joy or pain with God who is listening.

You may wish to finish your time of prayer by listening to a modern hymn based on the writing of the medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, sung by Moira.

Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of the world.
Creator, source of every breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun;
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.

Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace;
your very body for my peace.

Mothering Sprit, nurturing one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flower, until I know;
until I flower, until I know.
Words, Jean Janzen; Tune, John Bell

Today’s readings, 1 Samuel 1.20-28 and Luke 2.33-35, acknowledge both the joy and pain of those who are mothers or who care like mothers, and give an insight into the heart of God. They are taken from two stories set in Jerusalem featuring two mothers who had brought their sons to the Temple to be dedicated to God. The first, read here by Colin, is the story of Hannah who had known the desperation and shame of childlessness and the delight of answered prayer. The second, read by Mary, is the story of Mary whose pregnancy was a source of potential disgrace, who was forced to seek refuge in a foreign land soon after the birth but who carried with her the secret joy of the angel’s message and all that she had seen and heard in Bethlehem. Both had come to the Temple to offer their sons back to God, Mary in accordance with Jewish law and Hannah to honour her promise. In order to allow them to fulfil their calling, both mothers would need to step back and stay in the background as their sons’ lives unfolded. Simeon’s prophecy is a reminder of the painful cost of that letting go. As Mary stood at the foot of the cross, pierced to the heart, I wonder if she remembered those glorious and dreadful words?

Mary’s was not the only heart to be pierced that day as Jesus allowed himself to suffer and die for love of the world. Our mother God was suffering too and continues to suffer alongside mothers in war zones, refugee camps and in situations of poverty and injustice. In her writing, Julian of Norwich returned again and again to the necessity of trusting in God’s mothering love and to her confidence that with God, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. I invite you to join with me to pray for each other, that when we experience the pain of the world’s suffering and the cost of caring, we would know God with us, bringing us all the perseverence and hope we need to continue to give of ourselves for the sake of others.

‘Compassion’ by Sister Mary Southard, a member of the Congregation of St Joseph, La Grange Park, Illinois.

Our prayers today have been written by Hugh. You can listen to him here, or read them yourself.

Holy and loving God, on this Mothering Sunday we give thanks for all who nurture and care for your world and all its people. Help us all to play our own part in that work, according to the different gifts you have given to each one of us, to give of what we have to share in that work.

We give thanks for the signs of new Spring life all around – the snowdrops, bulbs emerging, the longer days. Help us to care for your world, seeking and speaking out always for a fair sharing of its resources. We pray for those in countries already affected by rising seas, those suffering from drought and deprivation.

We pray for those who are finding it difficult in this pandemic – the lonely, the sick, those out of work, those struggling to meet living costs. We give thanks for the scientists, care workers, doctors, nurses, and all who are working to keep us safe and well. Thinking of countries who do not yet have enough vaccines, encourage leaders here and elsewhere to ensure fair sharing of those. We give thanks for the work of World Health Organisation and others seeking to bring medical help to people in all countries.

We pray for those in other countries forced to flee from their homes, thinking especially today of the people of Yemen and Myanmar. We give thanks for those who work to support and care for them and those seeking ways out of the violence.

We remember today the children and the teacher whose lives were cut short here 25 years ago. We pray for their parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, and all those directly affected. We know that you share with us the pain of that time and of our present time where people continue to die at the hands of others. Open our hearts to the fullness of your love, help us to live in true community, at one with all who are suffering or in need, that none may feel themselves excluded or eliminated.

We pray for those in our own community and beyond, and for those known to us personally, who are experiencing any kind of hardship or ill health or mental distress. Lord bless them and comfort them.

We pray for St Mary’s, for all who serve in this church, for all who are part of the church community, and all in the broader community we seek to serve.

Holy and loving God, help us to live and work in a spirit of love and care for all, inspired by this mothering Sunday and the life and message of Jesus, your Son our Lord, in whose name we pray.

If we were meeting for worship in church today there would have been an opportunity to make a donation to the Mothers’ Union Make a Mother’s Day Appeal.

If you wish to give a gift which will help empower women and girls in developing countries to flourish, please visit