We spoke to Rev'd Sonya Doragh and Lizzie Lowrie about their motivation for a special service that will be held in Liverpool Cathedral offering a safe space for those who find Mothering Sunday difficult.
Rev'd Sonya's story
Despite being a mum to 3 gorgeous boys I find Mother’s Day services in church at best somewhat cheesy, usually uncomfortable and at worst painful.
I have three beautiful boys, they are my adopted children. Each of my boys has multiple mums one is their birth mum at least one foster mother and me, their forever mum. The run up to Mothering Sunday, the day itself and the aftermath can be very unsettling, their powerlessness in the process of being taken into care, in being moved from one foster carer to another and in the limited communication they have with their other mothers means that mothering Sunday as we celebrate brings up some very conflicted feelings for them and for me.
Nearly every church we’ve been part of has given flowers out asking the children to come and collect them to give them initially to their own mother and then to the other women. As I’ve watched my boys collect flowers and walk toward me it is always laced with a peculiar adoptive mother guilt, these flowers should be going to the mum who grieves that my boys were taken from her, these flowers should be going to the foster carers. Of course we celebrate the joy of adoption, but the complexities of helping my children sustain relationships with multiple mothers makes Mothering Sunday difficult.
I want to bring the shadows into the light to allow the difficulties of motherhood to be present to God with me but find mothering Sunday services usually so focused on the light that I can’t find my truth.
It has been a growing desire to find a way to worship God whilst acknowledging the grief and pain that can surround mothering for many. My hope is that Mother’s Day runaways is a service for those wanting to find God’s presence in the midst of their grief. My hope is that Mother’s Day runaways will give me the opportunity to explore the complexities of my own role as mother and daughter.
I am a vicar’s wife who avoids the same church service every year. I love Jesus and I know He loves me, but for seven years I have not attended church on Mothering Sunday because I believed it was the one day when I didn’t belong there.
Six miscarriages, six very big unanswered prayers and a deep grief suffocating my soul led me to believe I had no place in a church service celebrating motherhood, my story unable to earn me a daffodil so why bother attending?
On my darkest days, my avoidance of church reminded me not only of my failure as a woman but as a Christian woman, telling me I had no place in the body of Christ, on lighter days I was just very angry that every year my church held a service that caused me so much pain.
I used to think I was the only person to skip church when it hurt too much, but, when I started to write about my story I realised I wasn’t alone. Every year there are people all over the country who decide not to go to church on Mothering Sunday (and other Sundays) because they believe their story doesn’t belong there. I know the history of Mothering Sunday, I know it has nothing to do with fertility but it doesn’t make the day any less painful. Somehow, through the years and the rise of Hallmark sponsored celebrations, the church has created and sustained a tradition that isolates those who are grieving.
Last year I was sat in a room full of Local Missional Leaders with Bishop Paul where we shared what our dream church would be like and the majority of people in that room talked about a place where mourning and rejoicing could exist side by side. They talked of communities where you could be yourself rather than keep pretending, of Jesus-centred families that embraced vulnerability, of a spiritual home for people’s stories, whatever they might be. Mothering Sunday is historically seen as one of those days for celebration and of course, the church should celebrate! But I don’t believe joy should trump grief, nor the celebration of the majority ignore the pain of the minority, the church is called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn throughout the year, not just on special occasions. I believe the church has a gift to offer our communities in providing them the space to grieve as well as rejoice.
This is why on the 25th March, Mother’s Day Eve, we will be hosting a service in the Cathedral. It’s a service for Mother’s Day runaways, a safe space for those who find Mothering Sunday difficult, an opportunity to acknowledge their pain and remind them they are not alone and that they are important and valued members of God’s family with or without children, with or without a mother.
Mother’s Day Runaways Service
On the eve of Mothering Sunday, our Mother’s Day Runaways service offers a safe space for those who find the day difficult.
If you normally avoid church on Mothering Sunday because you find it too painful for whatever reason, this quiet, reflective service has been designed with you in mind.
You could be grieving the loss of a mother, a child or a baby through miscarriage or if you’re struggling with infertility or childlessness, singleness or a difficult relationship or perhaps you never even knew your mother, this informal gathering is to help you acknowledge the bittersweet emotions you may feel surrounding Mothering Sunday.
You will be guided through an hour-long service including liturgy, poetry, music and stories, offering you the space to grieve and lament while inviting God, who loves us, into our stories of struggle.