Since becoming a mother, I’ve been incredibly ambivalent about Mother’s Day. I think it’s socially more acceptable to rail against the rampant commercialism of yet another “Hallmark holiday” than to embrace it, and while my love language includes validation such as Mother’s Day provides (and yes, breakfast in bed) I maintain with the best of them that I should feel that sort of love and appreciation all year round.
But enough about me, because this week The UMC dropped some truth in my Mother’s Day musings.
I follow The UMC’s official Facebook page, and on Tuesday morning they shared a great video about the Methodist origins of the holiday we know today. (The video was first posted March 15 of this year.) More than fifty years before Woodrow Wilson officially recognized the Mother’s Day holiday, Ann Jarvis was recruiting women to serve as nurses and provide support to mothers. She later went on to create “friendship groups” of Union and Confederate women to be a force for reconciliation after the Civil War ended.
Ann’s daughter Anna was involved in her efforts and in 1908 she organized the first officially recognized Mother’s Day celebration at Grafton UMC in West Virginia. Anna’s vision for continuing her mother’s work was “…a time to write a personal letter to your mother, a time to send her an inexpensive carnation (a flower in which the petals hold tight like a mother’s love) and a time to visit or attend church together.”
The Jarvis’ example is an important one for those of us looking for a more meaningful way to observe Mother’s Day. We don’t need commercial trappings to share our feelings; instead, we can speak and act directly from our hearts. We can reflect on a mother’s gifts of reconciliation, whether she is mediating a sibling argument or healing the wounds of war.
But there is another, deeper takeaway for those of us who are working for Reconciliation in The UMC today. Reconciliation is in the heart and soul of The United Methodist Church, or at least in the hearts and souls of so many who follow its teachings. That is a powerful and hopeful message.