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Mothering Sunday - Refreshment

Twenty-odd years in Community have linked Lent Four with chocolate, cake, flowers and celebration; yes, in the middle of Lent. While liturgically we always kept Lent Four, outside Chapel Mothering Sunday played a larger part. In the early years, when we still had Reverend Mothers, we produced flowers and cards for her, and had coffee in her room (probably making more work for her, as she had to re-arrange it to fit in enough chairs). It was also here that I came across the concept of Refreshment Sunday, which is basically the Sunday that you can relax the rules of the Lenten fast (hence the cakes and chocolate). I’ve just googled it, and to my surprise it came up with several different pages; I’ve never come across the concept outside of the Community. We were also allowed flowers in Chapel – a great joy, especially when it’s a late Easter. They always came out the next day to go into the kitchen (the kitchen staff could have flowers in Lent, while we didn’t have them in the house).

Many families will have their own traditions for commemorating Mother’s Day, although this year not all will be able to be kept. Indeed, many will not be able to see their mothers/children at all due to the continuing lockdown rules. While this may be painful, it might be worth sparing a thought for those who find this day difficult at any time. Since moving to Norwich, it strikes me how distressing it must be to any number of people to walk past shops all proclaiming the joy of Mother’s Day. While I understand why they do this, for some Mother’s Day may well add hurt to an already painful situation.

This year many people will have lost parents or children (or both) during the pandemic; others will have had miscarriages, still births, or been struggling with fertility issues. For other families, the strain of repeated lockdowns may have added to the stress of relationships. There will also be those who find Mother’s Day painful most years: people who have never been able to have children, whose mothers or children have died in earlier years, whose family relationships are problematic, people who experience it as a difficult day, for any number of reasons (some of which I may not have mentioned). The same will be true of Father’s Day later in the year.

I don’t have any answers for this. It may be possible to prepare a rite or ceremony of some sort to express the hurt; but equally it may not. I want to acknowledge that Mothering Sunday is a day of potential pain and grief, as well as celebration. To acknowledge the loss as well as the joy. To acknowledge that not all women can become mothers, that not all want to; that, however good it is to celebrate our mothers, no mother is perfect.

We haven’t kept Mothering Sunday as such in Community since the advent of leaders instead of Reverend Mothers; the cake, chocolate (or both together) remain an essential part of Lent four, presumably as part of Refreshment Sunday. This year most of us may feel the need for some kind of lightening up as Lent coincides with lockdown. You may or may not be able or wish to celebrate Mothering Sunday; but you could consider Refreshment Sunday, and do something to celebrate what you do have (keeping within the restrictions, of course); something that will give you, and anybody around you, some true refreshment, as we carry on through the remainder of Lent, and the rest of lockdown.

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