For those who experience loss: alternative hymns for Mothering Sunday

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For many women, and men too, Mothering Sunday is a day on which tightly constrained emotions are liable to be ambushed and exposed.

Those who have lost children or been unable to conceive a child, or who have recently lost a parent or close relative, may well tread cautiously around this day: perhaps wishing – trying – to participate in community joy at the smiles and gifts of children for their mothers; perhaps feeling more than usually isolated.

The great joy expressed by Hannah and the decision to offer her son, Samuel, into a life of religious service (1 Samuel 1:20-28: one of the readings suggested for Mothering Sunday) has to be set in the context of her very great sorrow at being childless (1 Samuel 1:1-19).

The ambivalence and grieving that can accompany Mothering Sunday finds  expression in three of the hymns suggested on Singing the Faith Plus for use on this day.

“God of Eve and God of Mary” (StF 119), for example, has the ability to widen our appreciation and definition of parenthood.

The hymn was written specifically for Mothering Sunday by Fred Kaan when he was serving as a part-time minister for a small housing estate congregation in Swindon. A few years later, he was asked to write a companion hymn for Father’s Day (“God of Adam, God of Joseph”). In both hymns, he gives thanks for the possibilities of parenthood and for inspiration found in the loving heart of God, but one phrase occurs in both texts – it gives particular thanks “for those who have no children, / yet are parents under God”. (See also Alan Gaunt’s hymn We gladly celebrate and praise, StF 120.)

For some, even this possibility may, at times, be too hard to contemplate. And, in any case, all grieving is personal and unique.  Fred Pratt Green offers the suggestion of a wordless acknowledgement that might be helpful for those for whom grief is too raw for words:

If we’ve no breath for praise,
no thoughts to frame a prayer,
we know you need no words of ours
to prompt your care.     (StF 616)

Finally, Alan Luff’s hymn, “God grant us words to speak” (StF 647), will be suitable in any number of contexts. Mothering Sunday, with the shadow of the cross falling ever more darkly over our Lenten reflections, may be one of them. He helps us pray to find the right words “to ease the pain that others feel” and points out (v.4) that, even as he was being crucified, Jesus’ “thoughts amid death’s strife / were for the ones whose pain he healed / by words of love and life.”

Categories: Special Sundays and weeks, Worship Resources.

4 Responses to For those who experience loss: alternative hymns for Mothering Sunday

  1. Anne Cartwright says:

    Mothering Sunday is celebrated for me by my three children, for whom I am so grateful to God (having lost one child to enforced adoption as a baby and then having had three miscarriages before having them), but it is almost the hardest day of the year since my husband died. It is a day of memories of shared breakfast in bed (cold tea and warm cornflakes when the children were little), opening beautiful cards and thoughtful gifts, but most of all of sharing the deep love we had for each other. He refused to participate in the day’s organisation – he made the children do it (as I did for Father’s Day) – and he made sure that I was shown I was appreciated. Now it is the day when I miss him so much, and realise how deep our love was, if not always shown.

  2. Mal Pratt says:

    Thank you for this – next week will be very difficult for my daughter (2 miscarriages), the church where I shall be leading woship (bad mother/daiughter relationship and several unmarried), and my home church where a 17 year old will be made a member (her mother died a few weeks ago). Help was definitely needed. StF is excellent, and these extras are invaluable.

    • Editor says:

      Mal, thank you. Yes, this can be a difficult and painful time for far more women and men than we might imagine. Our thoughts will be with you, your daughter and those who will be with you in worship. I’m glad there is material in Singing the Faith that can be of some help.

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