Speaking of Religion | 'Mothers and Others for Peace'

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Happy Mother's Day everyone! Why not celebrate with some peacemaking? Lay minister Julia Ward Howe wrote the "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870, long before we started sending greeting cards, giving flowers, and going out for special meals to honor our mothers. What Julia wanted moms to do was to come together and work for peace, and a local group is taking up that cause this year.

"Mothers and Others for Peace" is asking folks to gather on the Town Offices lawn on Saturday, May 11, at 11 a.m. to honor mothers and to promote peace-building. This program is open to all ages and will include a community art project and a sing-along, and I encourage everyone to turn out for this great event.

"Mother's Day" has a mixed history, but three women are mostly responsible for this tradition. Universalist Julia Ward Howe had previously written "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", our most famous war hymn. That was 1861. A decade later, with the Civil War a hard memory and a war in Europe making fresh news of suffering, Julia decided to ask all mothers in the world to work for peace, and issued her "Mother's Day Proclamation."

Howe believed that if mothers met every year to work on peace — June 2nd was the first day she chose, later she tried for the 4th of July — they would achieve peace. Sadly, she failed to establish that tradition, but her words still inspire, and will be read at the Bennington gathering.

A friend of Julia's, Ann Jarvis, taught Sunday School at a Methodist Church. She spoke of Julia's idea for an annual Mother's Day, but she thought it should be more about commemorating mothers and all they do. Her daughter Anna Jarvis was in that class, and she was inspired. Years later, Anna took care of her aging mother, Ann, and when her Mom died, Anna had a commemoration at that same church for her mother, and for all mothers. That was 1908, the beginning of our current Mother's Day tradition.

And so began special celebrations every year. Eventually, Anna Jarvis was not happy with the commercialization of this holiday she helped found, and in 1943 she circulated a petition trying to rescind(!) Mother's Day. That didn't work. Even though Mother's Day has been fraught with disappointments for the three women who got it started, the practice of honoring mothers with gratitude and gifting has carried it forward to be the sweet holiday we celebrate today.

But wouldn't it be great to go back to Julia's original idea of gathering to create peace? I hope you can join "Mothers and Others for Peace" on Saturday at 11 a.m., 205 South St. in Bennington. Blessings on the journey to peace.

The Rev. Kathy Duhon is pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington

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