The name Constance Penswick-Smith (1878-1938) probably means nothing to most of us, but this determined lady is responsible for the continued celebration of Mothering Sunday in England. In 1913 she read of plans to introduce an American festival into Britain, to celebrate Mothers’ Day on the second Sunday of May. She realized that although it had a similar sounding name to Mothering Sunday it did not share its Christian origins.
Traditionally the fourth Sunday of Lent was the day that people would visit their Mother Church, which would be either the one where they grew up or, or a locally important one, such as a cathedral. It was a chance for different congregations to come together and some of them even marked it clipping the church; this involved linking hands in a big circle, all the way round the church. During the church service they would have heard the traditional New Testament reading about Jerusalem…which is the mother of us all’ (Galatians 4:26).
By the sixteenth century it had also become a rare holiday for servants, who were also allowed the day off to be not only spiritually refreshed, in their home churches, but physically refreshed by visiting their parental homes too. Many were allowed by their employees to bake a special Simnal cake, to take as a gift to their mothers, and it seems that picking a bunch of wild flowers was also a custom.
It has to be said that by 1913 these customs had gone seriously into decline in England. Constance Penswick-Smith worked hard to change that by founding The Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday. It was something of an uphill struggle, since groups, such as the Mothers’ Union, thought it was too late to do anything to revive it, but she persisted and slowly turned the tide.
Today Mothering Sunday continues to celebrate mothers and family life, but, as Constance Penswick-Smith, a life-long spinster, knew, it is also a celebration of the family life of the church. The Rev’d Horace Sturt, rector of Crowhurst in the 1930s, was a supporter of her campaign and his words from 1932 are just as valid now. ‘One is very anxious to keep alive these ancient usages because of their deep and sacred meanings. Home and family life should mean so very much to us, and the Church as God’s House, where all His family gather.’
Holy Week and Easter
It won’t be long before the Easter cards are going round our parishes.
So what’s all the fuss about keeping Holy Week? We know that Christ had supper with His friends on the Thursday night, was crucified on the Friday, lay in the tomb on Saturday and rose on the Sunday. So why do we need to act it all out again with a whole series of extra services? We do it because of the important connection between memory and hope. In Holy Week we go over the story of God’s love for us, so that we can awaken, in our hearts, memories of God’s goodness and open doors of love.
We are blessed that on Easter Day so many people choose to come to church to celebrate the memory of Christ defeating death. Easter, however, comes at the end of seven days of thinking about memories of God’s love in action for us. It would be great if some of the other services could be just as well supported. If you read all the chapters of a book, and not just the conclusion, then you have a much better understanding of what has happened.
Posted By: valerie