Faith Works 5-7-16
Transformation Isn't Always On the Outside
Mother's Day weekend, the dogwoods are in full bloom, and spring is ready to turn the page to summer, all solstices aside.
Next week begins the local series of commencements (Denison's used to be on Mother's Day for years and years, but they've grown wiser: it's next Saturday), and this is a big commencement season in your columnist's household.
It's also bittersweet; my mother and father are coming to town at the end of the month, but my wife's mother passed away this week last year. That's also always a part of Mother's Day, as you experience it in community, in families, through the years. There are those we give thanks for who are with us, and those we remember who have passed on; all that we do is intended, in one small part at least, to pass along models and examples for mothers yet to come into that role.
In church life we've learned better than to just focus on the mothers with children on this day. Those who would have had and could not, those who have lost children, those whose circumstances we may never fully comprehend can be excluded and hurt if we're too entirely about numbers and distance and generations, but it's worth a little extra effort to find a way to celebrate the mothers that are, as well as the mothering we all need and have often gotten from many and diverse sources.
We are mothered in school by teachers and lunch ladies, mothered by nurses and doctors and caregivers, mothered by Sunday school leaders and even occasionally by ministers. A motherly love was expressed by Jesus looking down from the Mount of Olives over Jerusalem, and we would reflect that particular love as we would all elements of Christ's personality.
It is hard, and even in a practical sense impossible to be mothered by institutions – even the institution of the church. One of the reasons I like to lift up Mother's Day in the liturgical year (some do not, and I respect the observation that it's not in the Bible) is that it's really about personal connections in life and faith and family. We can add to our collection of mothers in our lives through interactions and involvements in a number of organizations, the church included, but while we sing and speak this time of year of "Alma Mater," there's no collective that can truly love us with a mother's love. It's the people we meet at Alma Mater who show us that love, that care.
It is in the relationships we build with people, face to face, personal and connected, that we come to know just why Mother's Day is such an important day to so many. On the Fourth of July we celebrate that "Columbia's the gem of the ocean," but on Mother's Day we give thanks for the individuals who have shown us what love really is.
And if you're looking for someplace to take Mom, or one of the motherly influences in your life, this weekend, you really should come to downtown Newark and check out FAMFEST. Again, "The Works" is a unique and wonderful museum, about to celebrate a 20th anniversary that includes, quite frankly, a whole lot of love, but you can't love a big brick building. It's the people who manage it and run it and volunteer for it who put the love inside of all the hard edges and factory exterior.
They tell us "Newark FAMFEST was founded on the belief that experiences in Film, Art and Music can be a catalyst for personal, social and economic transformation." That's true, but that truth only is communicated through the interactions with the artists and creators and curators at work on what they have to share. Come on down to the LeFevre Courtyard at "The Works" to celebrate Film, Art, & Music in our community. (See www.newarkfamfest.com for more info.)
We need those connections now, it seems, more than ever. When labels and speeches and social media are full of tension and fear and anger, that's when we need a mother's touch the most. Not only our own mother, but the mothers and fathers and caring adults and visionary youth of our community to create spaces where those personal encounters can happen: and FAMFEST looks to be exactly one of those, perfectly fitting into this Mother's Day weekend.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about the relationships that have transformed you at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.