Prelude: Perfect by Pink
Welcome: Even in the most broken places, there is room for love By Becky Brooks
Mother’s Day is complicated. Joyful for many, yes, but complicated.
It’s right there on the calendar, even if your mother has died. Even if you’ve been told, yet again, that you’re still not pregnant; or if you’ve never been more scared than you are right now because you are pregnant, it’s Mother’s Day. Even if your own mother’s priorities included everything but you, there’s going to be a Mother’s Day google doodle with flowers and pink stuff. Even if you have scars, ones you can see or ones you can’t, it’s Mother’s Day. That cake mix commercial is going to roll out four times an hour even when you can’t stop shaking and crying because you can’t believe you slapped your little boy today. It’s Mother’s Day. And we all have to live with that, in those silent, breathless moments, because even when the baby dies, it’s Mother’s Day.
And so let’s go to church. Let’s be a church where we can acknowledge how difficult it is to have this day, right alongside how joyful this day can be. Let’s be a church where don’t pretend there aren’t inky depths of space between us even when we sing. Let’s be a church that fills the space between our differences with love. Because even in the most broken places, there is room for love. We can be that church.
Chalice Lighting: Chalice Lighting on Inherent Worth and Dignity By Steve Stock
We light this chalice to celebrate the inherent worth and dignity of every person;
To reaffirm the historic pledge of liberal religion to seek that justice which transcends mere legality and moves toward the resolution of true equality; And to share that love which is ultimately beyond even our cherished reason, that love which unites us.
Come Come Whoever You Are x3
Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving,
Ours is no caravan of despair.
Come, come yet again, come
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The Story for All Ages: Be Perfect from Quest for Meaning from Church of the Larger Fellowship
Offering and Response (Unison)
For the gifts which we have received—and the gifts which we, ourselves, are—may we be truly grateful. Yet more than that, may we be committed to using these gifts to make a difference in the world: to increase love and justice; to decrease hatred and oppression; to expand beloved community; to share, and to keep sharing, as long as ever we can. Amen.
Sermon: State of Panic
Today was originally going to be a sermon about Mother Earth and principle #7, which I promise I will do soon, because it desperately needs to be done. However, through the course of my week things came to my attention that I thought had been laid to rest. Or, more accurately, I thought I had talked about them enough. I have realized it might never be enough. Today’s sermon is going to be about the F word. The big one. The scary one. Feminism. Recently there have been copious amounts of anti-feminist sentiments, especially from women. This is what I what I have to say about that.
When you are a young white female and you say “I’m so over feminism” or “we don’t need feminism anymore” you are speaking from a place of privilege. You are speaking from a place of safety that a) I am grateful you have, but b) not all women have.
When we say we need feminism, we are fighting for:
Our African American sisters whose backs this country was built on. The ones who are forced into poverty, who break their back to try to rise above only to be pushed back down at every turn, who pray that their children will make it to 18.
Our Latina sisters who work tirelessly and thanklessly in a country that think they are here to steal their jobs while all they want is equality and a good home for their families.
Our Native American sisters who want their men back and their home back and their country back.
Our Muslim sisters who are ridiculed, harassed, and sometimes injured for expressions of their faith.
Our Disabled sisters whose bodies often make people not see the real person sitting or standing in front of them.
Our Lesbian sisters who want to see their wives, who want rights to their children, who want to adopt, who want to be leaders in their churches, and want to do it all without being afraid of losing their jobs.
Our Bisexual sisters who want to be heard, not erased, and not thought of as greedy.
Our Transsisters who want to use the damn bathroom. These women just want to be, without being threatened, beatened, or killed.
Our Raped sisters who are struggling to survive and overcome circumstances that were not their fault and beyond their control.
Our Abused sisters whether still in or out of their abusive relationships as they work toward finding who they are and their own self worth.
Our Pregnant sisters who want to be taken seriously at work, not lose opportunities or raises because of their children.
Our Breastfeeding sisters who just want to feed their baby without covering up.
Our Bottlefeeding sisters who just want to feed their baby without criticism.
Our Mothers who stood and fought for our rights.
Our Fathers who stood by their sides.
Our Daughters who we want to know to value themselves from day one and not day ten thousand nine hundred fifty one.
Our Raped and assaulted brothers who no one else talks about and just puts in a corner, who everyone tells them to never talk about it again.
Our sons who we don’t want raised with toxic masculinity so they don’t have to think that the only emotion a man is allowed to feel is anger.
Our male loved ones because we know that they have more value than the idea of “boys will be boys” will allow.
This is our fight and we will keep fighting it. Feminism is for everyone. It’s not called Humanism because that exists already check it out. Do the googling. Do your homework.
PS: if you are walking at night and you feel scared by yourself. Or if you are don’t like going to the bathroom in a strange place alone, odds are you still need feminism.
Several things happened this week that caused my topic to change.
First, issues with doctors and not just mine. So many women I know, have to fight for their right to be heard in doctors’ offices while their male counterparts are listened to and taken care of on the first try.
Second, a friend of mine wrote “a thing” as she put it. In this blog post my friend describes what feminists are fighting for. She discusses that women should be paid for their labor, “The idea that women should be paid for all the labor they do is ludicrous to you. It’s ludicrous because you can’t see it. You can’t see it because nobody taught you it exists. Nobody taught you that it was a thing you were supposed to do. You don’t even know women are doing it, but all around you the unpaid physical and emotional labor of women is smoothing your way. That sense of relaxation you get when you’re in a relationship? The way that, for a while, things are just somehow better and easier? That’s what our labor feels like to you. Men have never valued our labor. We raise their children and they complain about paying child support. We are the wind beneath their professional wings for decades and they leave us for a younger model and complain about paying alimony. The idea that any of these labors should be valued with currency like the labors of men is offensive to you. You resent every reminder that the things we do for you have actual value. Why?” I thought about this for a long time. What does it mean to labor emotionally? Emotional labor is defined as the process by which employees are supposed to manage their emotions for the good of the company. You know, “Service with a smile”. But how does that apply to mothers? Mothers are expected to make it through their day at full speed with smiles on their faces. They are expected to take adversity as part of life and make the best of it. Mothers are expected to have grace under pressure. It is our job to make sure that people are happy and birthdays are remembered. It is also a mother’s job to remember which grandmother or aunt bought which onesie and which grandmother has an aversion to peace signs so that no child is dressed to offend. It is our job to schedule playdates and know who has allergies and what friends can’t play together or whose mothers aren’t friends. It is a mother’s job to know who eats what on their tacos, hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, and what cakes everyone wants for their birthdays, all without asking and all without breaking a sweat or furrowing a brow. This is all emotional labor.
The third and biggest thing that caused me to change topics was a frantic facebook post from a friend who said that she was tired of people saying she was a bad parent. I immediately replied telling her she wasn’t. My husband and I ended up talking about it and he said, “she’s just always in a state of panic with her kids”. I stared at him hard for about five minutes. Then I said, “that state of constant panic she’s in, I’ve been in that same state for the last 11 years”. He said, “No, you’ve always had it together.” After cackling and being angry for a hot second, I realized that maybe I should have been an actress. I see all the mothers around me all of the time with squirmy children who make noise at inappropriate times. I see mother’s struggling. I’m always struggling.
Feminism doesn’t talk about mothers enough. So often mothering is seen as anti-feminist. It isn’t. Mothering is part of being a woman. It isn’t the only part but it is a part. So to combat that we have created the Super-Mom. Mom has to put on a cape and be able to not only leap single buildings in a bound, but all of that emotional labor we talked about a minute ago is supposed to be easy and fun for her, plus she supposed to have a job, where she does all of the emotional labor there too, and she’s supposed to manage all of it while keeping in top physical condition, wearing makeup and the most up-to-date clothes, and a smile on their face. The picture on the front of the bulletin this morning is from Newsweek from 11 years ago titled “The Myth of the Perfect Mother”. I don’t think that things have gotten better in that time. We have invented new kinds of perfect mothers. Like my own personal bane, the crunchy mom. Not there is anything wrong with Crunchy moms; in fact, they are my bane, because if I had time, money, and energy, that’s the mom, I would be, but I can’t be her and so I look at her and say “I’m not good enough”.
We have to stop that. We have to stop that as mothers. We have to stop that as women. We have to stop that as people.
Our first principle is respecting the inherent worth and dignity of all people. That means we start with ourselves. That means we don’t look at women in the grocery store whose children are not listening and assume they are bad parents. Society has taught us this. Society has taught us that one toe out of line and your parents, in particular your mother has messed up. This isn’t true. Ever noticed that if a father is out alone with a toddler and she has mismatched clothes and hair askew people say “oh how sweet, Daddy tried”, but the same toddler with her mother gets disapproving stairs and the mother blushes sheepishly, “Well, she wanted to pick out her own clothes” or “Her hair was fine in the car”. There should be no double standard. Toddlers have minds of their own. Mothers need to let loose. Take off the cape. We can’t be everywhere and do everything. We have to be able to take care of ourselves too.
Our second principle is Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Parenting is a human relation. Talking to yourself is a human relation. We have to stop talking to ourselves as if we are not worthy. I know I’m not good at this but I’m working on it. As mother’s we owe it to our children. As people we owe it to ourselves.
American Journalist, critic, and woman’s right’s activist in the late 19th century Margaret Fuller said, “We would have every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would have every path laid open to Woman as freely as to Man. Were this done, and a slight temporary fermentation allowed to subside, we should see crystallizations more pure and of more various beauty. We believe the divine energy would pervade nature to a degree unknown in the history of former ages, and that no discordant collision, but a ravishing harmony of the spheres, would ensue. Yet, then and only then will mankind be ripe for this, when inward and outward freedom for Woman as much as for Man shall be acknowledged as a right, not yielded as a concession.”
Source: Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845).
This to me is the essence of what I have been saying. We have to tear down our own barriers. We have to be present within ourselves. We have to stand for our own rights against all that society has taught us. We have to say it’s ok to be the kind of mother I am. It’s ok to not want to be a mother. This is how we spread justice. We start in our own hearts. We spread to our own communities and tribes. We fan out to the world until we have achieved our goal of respect and equality for all.
Reading: Circle of Care By Lisa Bovee-Kemper
In religious community, we share our joys and our triumphs, our sorrows and our broken places.
In this circle of care, we make space for the complexity of life, the myriad experiences that bless and break our hearts. The truth of human experience dictates that on any given day, we each come to the table with hearts in different places. It is especially so on this day, invented to honor women who nurture.
In this circle of care, we honor the truth that mothering is not and never will be quantified in one single descriptor. Mothering can be elusive or infuriating, fulfilling or confusing, commonplace or triumphant. It exists in the every day experiences of each person. There is no human being that is not connected to or disconnected from a mother.
And so we honor the complexity of experience, writ large in flowered platitudes, but here in this space laid bare, honoring the truth in each of our hearts. There is room for all in this circle:
If you have carried a child or children, whether or not they came to be born,
we see you.
If you have fervently wished to do so, and circumstances of fate made it impossible,
we see you.
If you love children we cannot see, whether because of death or estrangement,
we see you.
If you never wanted to be a mother,
we see you.
If you are happy to mother other people’s children, as an educator, an auntie, or a foster parent,
we see you.
If your mother hurt you, physically or emotionally,
we see you.
If you had no mother at all,
we see you.
If your mother is or was your best friend,
we see you.
If your gender says you are not a mother, and yet you take on the role of nurturer,
we see you.
If you wonder whether your mothering has been enough,
we see you.
And if yours is a different truth altogether,
we honor your unspoken story.
There is room for all in this circle.
May it be so, today and always.
Joys and Sorrows
If you woke this morning with a sorrow so heavy that you need the help of this community to carry it;
or if you woke with a joy so great that it simply must be shared, now is the time for you to speak.
For the joys and sorrows that haven’t been spoken, but which remain in the silent sanctuaries of our hearts.
These joys and griefs, spoken and unspoken, weave us together in the fabric of community.
Silent Meditation – Remembering that here in this space small child noises count as silence and stillness
Benediction: Blessed with Questions By Ma Theresa Gustilo Gallardo
Some came here to be blessed with answers in a tumultuous world.
Let us hope too, however, that many of us have been blessed with questions
to direct us with a clarity of mind to steer our logic towards kindness and justice always.
Closing Song: Go Now in Peace
Go now in peace. Go now in peace, may our love and care surround you, everywhere, everywhere, you may go. (Repeat 3 times)
Art Credit Newsweek Cover February 13, 2005