An alternative song of motherhood

Liz Stuart, 27 March 2022

1 Samuel 1: 20–28; John 19: 25b–27

On Twitter this week a woman posted a song that her niece had to learn for Mother’s Day. It included these lines:

My mum’s ever so clever,
she may not have a degree,
but she can help with my homework,
and that’s what matters to me …
She does the cleaning and shopping
and makes a wonderful tea!

The school responsible for this song was a Church of England primary school. I’d like to offer an alternative song of motherhood.

On this Mothering Sunday let’s give thanks for mothers like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – strong, indefatigable, resistant, refusing to legitimise or to buy into narratives about her ‘rescue’.

On this Mothering Sunday let’s honour those mothers who have walked and carried their children and pets from Ukraine to safety, leaving behind the people they love, and let’s honour those women who have taken up arms to fight for their motherland. Let’s honour those Ukrainian mothers who have telephoned the mothers of Russian prisoners of war to let them know their sons are alive and safe. Let’s honour those Russian women who risk arrest, imprisonment and more for taking part in anti-war protests, so that mothers do not lose their sons or their motherland her soul – including 77-year-old Yelena Osipova arrested in St Petersburg but unbowed and still protesting, and the Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova.

Let’s give thanks for our mother in God, Bishop Debbie Sellin, catapulted without notice into care of our fractured diocese and charged with its healing. Let’s give thanks for the 32 women, the first women to be ordained priests in the Church of England, spiritual mothers, now commemorated in a new plaque in Bristol Cathedral (the original plaque commemorating their ordination having just the names of two men on it, the Bishop and Dean), and we pray for all those mothers whose names or achievements have never been recorded.

We remember our own mothers, with gratitude perhaps, with sadness for those of us who have lost our mothers, with regret perhaps, perhaps even anger. We pray for all those who’ve found motherhood hard and those who long to be but cannot be mothers.

We pay tribute to all those who are not biological mothers but who step in to love unconditionally those who have been rejected by their own mothers because of who they are or who they love. All of us, no matter what our gender, can be these types of mothers today, loving unconditionally.

All of us, no matter what our gender, can be these types of mothers today, loving unconditionally.

We honour our mother earth, bruised and broken, and all who care for and fight for her and her non-human children.

We venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of our Lord, the first to proclaim the coming of his kingdom and its true nature in her song, the Magnificat; the first to be able to say to say ‘this is my body, this is my blood’, the last to leave him. We hold all mothers who have lost children before the heart of God.

With Julian of Norwich, we say, ‘As truly God is our Father, so truly is God our mother’. We see her image in all these people and we hear her call to all of us to be mothers for, as Saint Methodius of Philippi said, ‘The Church is with child and lies in labour until Christ is formed in us and born in us’. Amen.