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Mother’s Day—Founded in the Spirit of Peace

It all started in a church in West Virginia by a daughter honoring her activist mom.

Rick Hamlin

The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in a church. Church and moms—don’t the two go well together?

Before I get to that first Mother’s Day, I think back to my own mom getting us kids ready for church every Sunday. Making sure we put on our best clothes, combed our hair and piled in the station wagon.

At church, Dad was the one who insisted we sit up in the front—those pews that were the last to fill. But Mom turned to the right pages in our Bibles (we got those in a special celebration in third grade) and guided us through the hymnal.

Dad was an enthusiastic singer of those hymns, but Mom was much better at hitting the right notes. Nothing I loved better than sitting next to her on the piano bench at home as she pounded tunes from the Rodgers & Hammerstein song book. “Climb Every Mountain” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” they were like hymns at home.

Mom was also one of our Sunday school teachers. How powerful to learn those lessons of love from someone you’d see putting them into practice day to day, trying them out on us.  

Not that Mom never raised her voice; it’s just that her language couldn’t have shocked a soul. Once she dropped a bag of cans on her foot. Ouch. It really hurt. She apologized for her outburst, chagrined by her language. I couldn’t see how her loud exclamation of “Dog! Gone! It!” was anything close to taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Mom loved to help us kids do art projects. One of my favorites was making little stained-glassed figurines out of resin and colored glass. She taught us how faith could be communicated in symbols: the fish, cross, sunburst, crown or triangle.

Mom, like most moms, was always giving, and what could be better than to have a day where we could all give back, drawing cards for her, picking flowers, painting pictures—saved for the year on the refrigerator.

In that first Mother’s Day back in 1907, Anna Jarvis held a service of worship at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Who did she want to honor? Her own mother, of course. That would be Ann Reeves Jarvis, who had been a peace activist, caring for wounded soldiers from both sides during the Civil War. 

After that terrible, bloody conflict, in 1870, Ann Reeves Jarvis launched with Julia Ward Howe (author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) a Mother’s Day for Peace. They had the hope that sons and husbands would no longer have to be killed in wars. 

Here we are again at a time when peace in the world seems a distant dream and mothers on distant shores have reason to pray for not just their sons and husbands but their daughters, grandchildren and their own selves.

May we be inspired by what Anna Jarvis started. Celebrating Mother’s Day, honoring those blessed people in our lives who gave so much without ever expecting credit, giving thanks to them and for them. May we all have peace.

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