Here’s something I did last year and which worked pretty well. But NB it only works in a church that would recognise what a chasuble is and in which the service is Eucharistic, so apologies if your church isn’t that kind of church or you’re not doing a Eucharistic service (and please do search ‘Mothering Sunday’ on this site for alternatives – there are quite a few I’ve posted). Anyway, if your church does do chasubles please read on…
1. Ensure that you’ll be using the Exodus and John readings
2. Find an old (pale coloured) bedsheet, ideally one that’s not really manky – the perfect bedsheet for this is one with a coffee stain in the corner but which is otherwise still quite respectable. Fold it in half so the short edges meet and the long edges are halved. Cut out a poncho/chasuble shape complete with neck hole. You might need to hold it up against yourself to make sure it’s roughly the right size and shape. But it doesn’t have to be perfect.
3. Get hold of some sharpies or fabric pens, and make sure you have somewhere in church you can lay it down, unfolded. You might want to protect that surface with a plastic sheet or something in case the pens soak through.
4. Recruit someone to stand by the blank chasuble during the service, starting from when people come in – ideally this should be someone who knows your children and families and can get them involved. Tell your helper that when people arrive they can start writing and drawing on the chasuble words and pictures that they associate with mothering, on one half of the chasuble (ie either the front or the back of it). Give that person some hand gel that they can get everyone to use.
5. Recruit someone to do the intercessions that day who is able to respond pastorally and appropriately to anything difficult that emerges from the talk. Mothering Sunday is the worst day of the year for a lot of people…
In the service:
1. In the notices, encourage any families (or indeed anyone who likes doing stuff rather than listening to stuff) to go over to the chasuble area and the helper you have there will encouarge them to start decorating the chasuble once they’ve used the hand gel.
2. After the readings, encourage any families or others who like that sort of thing to go over to the chasuble and keep working on it while you all reflect together on what you’ve heard.
3. Ask the chasuble team what sorts of things are already on the chasuble – what have people written and drawn?
4. Look back at the readings, and see what you notice about mothering in the two stories, for example:
– mothering isn’t just about being a biological mother (there are four women who have a role in mothering the baby Moses; on the cross Jesus creates a new family) – this can be affirming for people who find mothering Sunday difficult because they feel that their own families are not ‘standard’.
– mothering often involves courage, cunning, sadness, ingenuity, improvisation, rebellion, solidarity, sorrow….
Ask your chasuble team to find ways to express these suggestions on the other half of the chasuble.
5. Draw attention to the wide range of gifts and feelings, and allow people if they wish to give voice to some of the really difficult aspects of mothering, and of being mothered. Is there room for these on the chasuble too? Reassure everyone that these are things that will be included in the prayers.
6. When the chasuble is decorated with all this, get the team to bring it forward, and either put it on yourself, or get someone else to put it on, so that everyone can see it – maybe even walk down the aisle and round the church. It will likely be both beautiful and chaotic. It will not be pefect. That’s OK. Thank the chasuble team – they can go and sit down now.
7. Some background for this next bit: my son when he was little always said ‘chasuble hugs are the best hugs because chasubles are like wings’. So at the end of each service I’d always wrap him in the biggest chasuble hug, and I’d tell him that it was like when Jesus described himself as a mother hen who wanted all her chicks tucked under her wings. When I did this talk last year, I had someone that I could hug to demonstrate this, but this year because of Coronavirus we’re not doing hugs, so here is my alternative:
Tell the congregation about Jesus being the mother hen – and you can tell them about what my son said, too, if you like. Suggest that the chasuble is a challenge for the church to see how the church can be a mother hen for people. At the moment hugging isn’t a thing we can do safely, in order to care for and protect one another. But there other ways that we can be a mother hen, and some of those ways are already written and drawn on the chasuble.
8. Get the congregation to suggest ways for us as a church community to be mother hens for one another and especially for the most vulnerable. Link to any initatives that the church is already taking. Let this take you into the creed (‘Let us stand and affirm in God, who made us and loves us and cares for us, in Jesus Christ, our mother hen, and in the Holy Spirit who wraps us in God’s love every day of our lives’ or whatever).
9. If you’re presiding, you can wear the chasuble for the rest of the service, or you someone else can.
Please feel free to adapt this to your circumstances – I’d love to know what you did differently and how it went, so please do leave a comment if you’d like to.