Mother’s Day and the Methodist Church

The first Mother’s Day observance was held at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908. Organized by Anna Jarvis, who had grown up in that congregation, the event was dedicated to her mother and all mothers. Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, was a social activist who had organized Mothers’ Day Work Clubs. She was an active member and Sunday School teacher at Andrews Methodist Church, and during one of her lessons in 1876 she made a remark that impressed her daughter, Anna: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

Anna Jarvis did just that. On May 10, 1908, a few years after her mother’s death, she organized a memorial service for her mother and all mothers. It was held at her home church, Andrews Methodist Episcopal. After that celebration she began to work to have “Mother’s Day” become nationally recognized. She succeeded, of course, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson (a Presbyterian) proclaimed it to be a national holiday. It is to be observed on the second Sunday of May each year, just as the first observance had been in 1908

She insisted that it be called “Mother’s Day,” in the singular possessive form, and not “Mothers’ Day,” for she held that even though all mothers were being honored, it was one’s individual mother who was held most dear. She is also the one who gave us the custom of wearing a white carnation in memory of those mothers who have died, and she decried the use of “Mother’s Day” cards, saying it was a sign of laziness, and thus a bit disrespectful not to take the time and make the effort to compose a letter in one’s own hand.

Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, is now the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

Mother’s Day always falls during the season of Easter, a fitting place for it, for Easter is the celebration of the second birth which is ours through faith in the resurrected Christ, while Mother’s Day is the celebration of the one who brought us into the world in our first birth.

There ought to be a sermon in there, don’t you think?

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