Why I skipped church on Mother’s Day

by Dawn Ranck, Plains

I don’t normally journal . . . or blog . . . I rarely write anything except sermons. So why am I sitting at Starbucks writing about skipping church on Sunday to spend a day in Philly with seven friends?

First, a bit about me and church. Yes, I am a pastor, so being at church on a Sunday morning is duty, part of my job, an expectation. But, for me, church is much more than that. Sunday morning worship is a spiritual practice; it is as important to me as breathing.  Something is profoundly missing in my week when I don’t worship with God’s people on Sunday morning. I have started to attend church when I am on vacation, often alone as my friends lounge or sleep in.

A part of me–a big part–craves church.  The singing, the scripture reading, the sermon,  the atmosphere, the reality that where 2 or 3 are gathered (even those as imperfect as myself and the others I worship with), God is there!  Something happens to me each Sunday morning–a recharging.  It’s hard to explain, but I know I need it to the depth of my being.

So, Sunday wasn’t an easy decision for me.  But I went to Philly in solidarity with my female “kid-less” friends.

While my church does little to emphasize the non-religious Mother’s Day holiday, my friends share of painful experiences, of feeling excluded, of the painful reminder of an unfulfilled longing. One lamented that her church was emphasizing “Mothers and Others.” We all groaned…oh the perpetual need to rhyme!!!

(A sidebar: this reminds me of a young adult Sunday School class that named themselves “Pairs and Spares.” My friend, the “spare,” soon found another church. How cruel and insensitive we can be in attempting to be clever!)

The last place many kid-less middle-aged women want to be on Mother’s Day is church. How tragic! And so, some of us flee to the city for a lovely brunch at Cuba Libre and a relaxing stroll through Old City.

When I was in my mid 20s, my sister and I opened our home to a 15-year-old girl who lived in the dorm during the week at the local Mennonite high school. Her mother had experienced a stroke and was in a retirement home. Her dad lived at a distance. And so for 2 years she lived with us on weekends and during the summer. Most of the time I felt unfit and too young to know how to care for her. I muddled through.

Late one night we received a call from the retirement home; we stood with Sue by her mother’s bed as she died. The Mother’s Day service shortly following was led by the youth. Sue shared about her three mothers–her biological mother, her mentor Ellie, and ME!! Talk about a holy moment! It still brings tears to my eyes.

As I listen to my friends who are mothers talk about the sleepless nights, the teenage attitudes, the endless piles of wash, the 24/7 being on call, hauling kids here and there, I recognize the need for a day to thank mothers–a day a year isn’t nearly enough for the selfless way in which they love their kids!

And yet, I wonder, should church be a place where we honor specifics which may alienate others? How do churches encourage mothers and fathers while being sensitive to those who yearn to be parents? How do churches strengthen marriages without making singles feel like second-rate citizens?

I would maintain that we (churches) haven’t done a good job at this balance.  Statistics prove that far fewer singles are in churches than are in the population, and,  if my friends are any indication, the church’s handling of Mother’s Day is questionable.

And here is where I confess I get stuck. I don’t know the answers . . . I am simply aware of the questions. And, perhaps that is where each pastor should be . . . aware of the messiness . . . aware of the pain . . . and open to breaking out of the holiness of the Sunday morning service to break bread with friends in Philly.

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