It’s no secret that I don’t like secular holidays in church.
They raise the question, “How did this holiday become part of our story?” The implied answer is “Well, it’s not really, but we don’t have a clear way of saying yes or no to the dominant culture.”
And sometimes we must say no or else our religion becomes a subcontractor for anything that’s popular and respectable, whatever the source or meaning, and whatever the harm. And despite all the talk about radicalism, Unitarian Universalism — especially on its Unitarian site — is a deeply respectable and culture-driven religion.
The contortions to make something religious out of Mothers Day are astounding. On the one side, there’s the effort to make it a peace holiday as intended. Good luck with that. Or there’s the ever widening functional definition of motherhood, to include those who never had children or — I saw this at least once — are male. And then there’s the sometimes-seen rose distribution, which if people were being candid, I bet is as hated as it is loved.
Better to mention it — perhaps even have an event apart from worship — and move on. Or if there’s to be something liturgical for Mothers Day — and Fathers Day and Memorial Day, while we’re at it — let’s at least be honest and missional.
One could hold two brief services — before and after the main service —
- One can be an honest lamentation about the real grief and sorrow that mothers have wrought. The abuse, neglect, favoritism, insults, humiliation, and premature parentification that their children still suffer. That kind of honest liturgy is — or should be — in our scope. There are lamentations that need a voice.
- Another is an act of mourning for mothers who have died, and for mothers whose children haveÂ predeceasedÂ them. (Perhaps too those who hoped for children and never could have them.) A reliable, annual event — I’d also have a special All Souls service — can be a great blessing.
And these should be well promoted, to provide the kind of rare outlet that some might find too painful to otherwise admit. There’s something to be said for worshiping with strangers, and in both cases I’m thinking of several people who’s real-life religious needs are not being fulfilled around these situations.
I think this is something good and valuable and — dare I say — healing that we can provide, whether or not there’s a special cake and flowers during coffee hour.