Saturday, July 25, 2015

Call me Mother - a footnote

After I linked to this post on Facebook, there were some interesting reactions...To start with, a number of colleagues read it as a directive to call me "Mother" whether they wanted to or not.

Can I say LOUDLY that I'm delighted to be called Mother if that's what you find helpful - but if you don't, for goodness sake don't feel that you have to!
The point is for the label to enable, not confuse relationship...There might be times, I guess, when those who normally call me Kathryn might want to relate more specifically to me as a priest - and use "Mother" to differentiate...but again, it's all about the terms of the relationship.

But I was also struck by a childless friend, an ordinand who felt that she wouldn't be able to use the title as she had not been a mother herself. To her I would say, as I do on pretty much every Mothering Sunday that I'm let loose in a pulpit, that Mothering has never, ever been the exclusive preserve of those who give birth
When I think of those who have offered me the most consistent nurturing along the way, my father would be at the top of the list, but he would be closely followed by my children as well as many wonderful friends, both male and female, parents and childless. 
That list of behaviours shared by priests and parents is absolutely possible (not easy, but possible!) whether or not you've given birth...and indeed, it does not include giving birth at all...

Because, you see, at that moment of procreative miracle, the parallel fails.
As clergy we do not birth the Church - nor the faith of any of our congregation.
That is, of course, the work of the Holy Spirit - and her alone.
In fact, that's just what Paul says in the passage from Roman's I've been wrestling with for 8.00 tomorrow
4For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God...

At which point, of course, we're back at the paradox that if God is our true father, perhaps we should save the labels of parenthood for God alone...

But I suspect it's a second-order issue really.
If it helps you, great. If not, forget it!

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