Your newspaper carried articles about it — on Saturday, August 26th — about Women’s Equality Day and the 75th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment (Women’s Suffrage).
The next day, Sunday the 27th, we did something special in West Columbia, South Carolina. We inserted a “Mother’s Thanksgiving Service” into our morning worship.
God’s Loving Care
A baby girl was born earlier that month. She was baptized at the local hospital on the day of her birth. On the Sunday in question mother and child, father and older son, plus a witness to the baptism, and the pastor (sponsors can be included), stood at the altar to report the holy washing. Then a special, brief, seven-part rite was held.
We began in the name of Jesus. Then came a declaration of God’s physical protection and baptism grace. We were here to give Him thanks. Short Scripture portions were read, followed by a brief address. God’s loving care was evident during the pregnancy — the times of discomfort, anxiety, perhaps even fear, then labor. The special work of God, through this mother, was being highlighted.
A birth was now celebrated! Abortion had been no option for this family. Mother (and father) saw it through under God. God’s will was done. The blessing of the Triune God rested upon them. It was now time for exuberant, thankful prayer — part five of the rite.
Then everyone moved aside, leaving the mother all alone facing the altar, holding her baby, as the congregation stood and sang the first verse of “Now Thank We All Our God!” Many eyes glistened, many cheeks were moist. Sheer joy!
Finally, mother and baby, father, brother, and witness were all dismissed in Jesus’ name. We sang the next hymn.
Good Spiritual Therapy
This is a revival of the old custom of escorting a mother to the altar — sometimes called “the Churching of Women” — to offer thanks after the delivery of a child. It may be held right after a church baptism, or soon after a hospital or home baptism. There is a variety of Scripture passages that can be used. The pastor shapes the rite (declaration, Scripture, address, prayer), personalizing it to suit mother, child, and circumstances. Everything is brief, to the point.
Here is good post-natal therapy for mother, family, and entire congregation. Good spiritual therapy! Pastors and elders may want to take note. Bible selections could be from Psalm 18, 27, 40, 103, 105, 111, 121, Luke 1:46-55, John 16:21-24, Romans 6:3-7, etc. Why have such a rite? Read 1 Timothy 2:11-15 — and then recall the words of the Rev. Paul F. Nolting in his “Hard Sayings” publication (p. 5 bot.): “. . . Child-bearing and child-rearing are . . . the special sphere of woman’s activity. There is a God-given and God-willed dignity, importance, and worth for the church and society in this activity, which is seemingly so despised by many feminists. In the church, ruling through the Word is the sphere of the man; bearing and rearing the future generation of church members are the sphere of the woman.”
True Christians have always understood and celebrated “Women’s Equality”: perfect equality with men in the Lord Jesus Christ, at the cross, at the communion table, in the hour of death and on the day of resurrection to life eternal. We also stand in awe of the special, even superior work God does through mothers. We do not want to neglect His work. God forbid!
Therefore, God be thanked! And thank your mother every once in a while too. We shall probably include the special service again, just to remind ourselves to do both.
–Pastor Warren Fanning