Letter to parishioners, 26 March 2022

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

We are now midway through our Lenten journey. We have been fasting, praying, serving and paying special attention to reading our bibles since Ash Wednesday, almost a month ago. Some will have slipped in their Lenten disciplines from time to time, while others will have succeeded in holding firm to the private promises they made as we marked the beginning of our pilgrimage towards the crucifixion and beyond. Wherever you fit on this spectrum of spiritual engagement, we will all feel that we have earned a moment of respite, and that is what we are given this Sunday. Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday, a day which is also known as Refreshment Sunday.

The season of Lent was probably instituted at the Council of Nicea in the year 325, although a period of preparation for Easter which recalled Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness is mentioned in the earlier writings of the Christian Fathers. The marking of the fourth Sunday of Lent as Mothering Sunday or Refreshment Sunday certainly dates back to the eighth century, if not earlier. This mid-way marker in our Lenten journey gives a moment of rest from our Lenten discipline and it provides us with an opportunity to celebrate. Lent is not a time we associate with celebration. There are no flowers in church, the celebratory word ‘Alleluia’ is removed from our liturgies, all is draped in purple and pall, as the author of the medieval ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ wrote. But, on this fourth Sunday of Lent we are celebrating.

Mothering Sunday gives us a moment to celebrate our mother Church and all that she offers. In earlier times it was customary for everyone to return to their ‘mother’ Church, either their diocesan cathedral or the church in which they were baptized, to give special thanks to God. This soon became associated with giving thanks for our earthly mothers as well. Flowers were picked as children of all ages journeyed home for their, sometimes annual, moment of reconnection with their families and the communities in which they grew up. Mothering Sunday is indeed a time of celebration. But this year we need to pause as we celebrate and refresh ourselves. We need to pause and think of those for whom this is another day of fear and, possibly, tragedy.

Over the past couple of weeks we have heard reports of maternity hospitals and perinatal units in Ukraine being bombed by Russian forces. In their attempt to subjugate a free, first-world country, Russian commanders have given the order to maim and kill mothers and their children. There is no way in which this can be wrapped up in language that excuses such barbarity. Even those mothers who have been fortunate to deliver their babies safely have done so in fear, and in circumstances we can barely imagine, despite the images that are shown on our television screens. For those new mothers in Ukraine, and in all the other places of human cruelty in this world, Mothering Sunday 2022 is not a day of celebration or refreshment. For all of those mothers it is another day of uncertainty and despair.

As we celebrate this moment of refreshment in our Lenten journeys, let us hold in our prayers all those who are struggling to survive because of the inhumane actions of others. As we raise a glass of good cheer to our mothers, both spiritual and human, let us do so in a spirit of determination … determination that we will do all we can to play our part in bringing human cruelty and violence to an end, in the name of Jesus Christ our Risen Lord and Saviour.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen