Like so much else during this pandemic, our celebration of Mothering Sunday will be different this year.
This year, mindful of loss and suffering, we will come to our Church in small numbers at different times to give thanks for our Mother Church, for our own Mothers and those who have been mothers to us and to receive our customary flowers; to pray, give thanks in peace.
This Mothering Sunday is a time for quiet contemplation rather than celebration, giving thanks but also, as it says in the collect for the day, asking that
‘Jesus might strengthen us in our daily living that in joy and sorrow we might know the power of Christ’s presence to bind us together and to heal …’
This last year we have come to know a deep need to be bound together with one another, and a deep need for healing. We need healing for minds and bodies but also for our society, for our environment. And sometimes we need attitudes and priorities to be healed.
During this lockdown, I have had an experience which has made me see healing, caring and loving in a different light. And it’s shown me ‘mothering’ in a less conventional way.
I have become a member of an exclusive club; there’s no membership fee, no rules other than the rule of love. It’s called the Mighty Wow Now Club and it operates at present over Zoom. Before Covid, I attended Saturday meetings in a church hall with my granddaughter, who has special needs, and the rest of my daughter’s family. Tim, who runs the club, is a music teacher at my granddaughter’s school.
But during lockdown, Zoom meetings have taken on a new, vibrant dimension.
Now families log in to Tim’s studio from home, from respite care; and teachers log in from classrooms. One family logged in from the car during a journey so that a precious Wow Now meeting wouldn’t be missed. Grandparents far from London Zoom in, their trade-mark puppets and teddies at the ready for when their child’s special song comes around.
By the miracle of Zoom (as a friend of mine who is a priest calls it), we have all gathered together and been welcomed to the heart of the children’s homes and lives. We meet their siblings, their parents, their carers. We see their toys, get to know their special interests: a fascination with Peppa Pig; a football team; family photographs in albums and on phones; and once, for one little girl with a big personality – for one week only – a length of flexible hose! Tim featured it in a song, of course. Some children have a little language; one or two have a lot; some are non-verbal.
And we are privileged to witness small miracles: a boy moving his head for the first time away from the head-rest of his wheelchair and holding it upright independently, all the time encouraged by Tim, who played the boy’s favourite song, his theme tune. A girl who barely speaks, given the courage to sing some words of her special song in a duet with Tim. Another boy with very little movement and a love of timpani is encouraged to reach out his foot and ‘play’ his fairy bells.
And that is the key to the magic – no, it’s not magic, although it may at times feel like it – it’s the power of mothering. Each child is presented as a precious individual, someone to be treasured. Every child’s achievements are celebrated and encouraged. Tim binds us together as a community of differently abled creatures, all with a need for healing. And the oil that smooths the running of the Mighty Wow Now machine is Tim’s gifts – to construct a song about absolutely anything whilst playing music, to introduce poetry and Shakespeare into the mix and operate the Wow Now theatre whose resident players are based on the children. And all the time, he sticks to his themes of love, courage and family.
Family is the other miracle we witness. It is a privilege to see love in action and witness the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers who care for these children day after day, with so much humour, gentleness and acceptance.
On Mothering Sunday we will remember and give thanks and pray for mothers whose babies have been lost, for mothers whose children are differently abled, for mothers who find caring for a child with special needs difficult, exhausting and without recompense. And we will also give thanks for mothers, fathers and grandparents who delight in their special needs children, who are blessed by hugs and love expressed abundantly by their children.
Wow Now is special because it cares for the siblings (whose care and love for their brothers and sisters is beautiful to watch) and parents as well as for the special needs children. Most of all, the Mighty Wow Now Club is Christ’s message and love played out in the everyday world.
During lockdown, missing the Eucharist, I came to feel that participating in Wow Now was a different kind of Eucharistic celebration. Even the structure is similar. We gather and greet each other. We look upon the created world, usually via the weather, and give thanks for sun and rain, flowers, animals and the natural world, using pets, songs and pictures. We look back and give thanks for the past week, acknowledge each child’s achievements; we exchange signs of peace and love. And the incarnation, the sanctity of these little bodies, is acknowledged with one of Tim’s songs called ‘A Wonderful Tour of Me’, when mothers and fathers, grandparents, sisters and brothers massage and tickle the small and not so small bodies of our children, and every part of them, working well and some not so well, is celebrated. ‘From my foot to my knee, from my knee to my hip’ it goes and so on – back, shoulders, neck, head, belly and all the way down to my toes. Of course, no one sees it as incarnational except me; for the mums and dads doing the tickling and massaging, it is an important piece of touch to stimulate bodies where nerves may not be working efficiently. For me, it has become a time for prayer for each child, a moment to give thanks that Christ’s incarnation sanctifies all life, makes these children one with Jesus Christ.
The Wow Now families are from many different races and probably many different religions and none. But for me our common bond, our shared love for these children, is a strong link to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world and God’s love holding and sustaining all things. ‘The Mighty Wow Now Club’ – I love the name. It calls to mind such phrases as ‘God’s mighty works’, ‘Christ’s mighty resurrection’. This experience, both sweet and sad, teaches me to look for small everyday miracles, signs and wonders. It demonstrates that very young siblings are capable of mothering, and that we all nurture and mother each other.
In our present situation, we must look constantly for Christ’s presence among us, bringing his power to strengthen us in our daily life, in both joy and sorrow, and to bind us to together and to Him.