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Mother’s Day Mission & Service campaign pushes boundaries

The United Church wants to make the occasion more inclusive and compassionate while helping families in need

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a spread of mother's day e-cards with messages for different types of mothers
The Mother's Day e-cards that donors can send. (Handout)

Sarah Charters, the Acting President of the United Church’s Philanthropy Unit and Rev. Trisha Elliott, its Mission & Service lead, talk about this year’s groundbreaking Mother’s Day campaign. The Mission & Service fundraising campaign aims to raise money for families in need and also seeks to expand the way we mark the holiday.

Q: The idea behind the campaign is that Mother’s Day can be more. More what?

Sarah Charters: Mother’s Day is a time when we celebrate mothers. Which is awesome, but not for everyone. For mothers who have lost a child, people who have lost or have a difficult relationship with their mom, and many kinds of families, the holiday can be a sad or challenging time. We want to do more good by helping families in need and make the holiday itself more inclusive and compassionate. 

Q: What impact will donations have?

Trisha Elliott: Donations will help families in need through our Mission & Service partners at home and abroad, supporting things like prenatal and parenting classes, respite care for families with children, medical clinics for babies and mothers, safe shelter, and education for children. 

Q: What makes the campaign unique?

TE: As a United Church minister, I believe raising money not only helps us live out our values, but that the way we go about it can be spiritual, prophetic and pastoral. That’s why you see spiritual practices in our campaigns. This one’s different because alongside encouraging financial generosity and prayer, we are expanding the holiday itself. For example, when someone makes a gift online, they can send a free e-card to honour, remember, acknowledge loss, celebrate difference, and inspire others to give. It’s the first time I’ve seen a Mother’s Day campaign with this kind of expansive focus.

Q: How are the e-cards different?

TE: The e-cards acknowledge the feelings people bring to the day. The cards say things like: “Mother’s Day can be so hard. I made a gift to support families in need as I thought about you today. I hope that knowing you inspire me to make a difference is a comfort” and “The world needs all kinds of families…You are a blessing!”

Q: Don’t churches celebrate Christian Family Sunday on Mother’s Day?

SC: Some do. Some don’t. Some marry the two. We acknowledge the joy and the challenge of the day through prayer and video. Of course, the whole point of the campaign is to help families in need. 

Q: You are asking mothers to invite their families to donate. Why?

SC: I wouldn’t turn down flowers and chocolate! But during a global pandemic, we need to step up. There are mothers of all kinds among us. Imagine the world of good we could do if we came together! I’m asking my family to make a donation. I like that I can use the occasion to help others. 

Q: It’s a risky campaign. What do you think the reaction will be?

TE: I hope it inspires people to generously help families. I hope it moves people to honour extraordinary mothers and reach out to those suffering. I hope it expands the way we typically mark the holiday. I hope it brings more awareness and hope. 

SC: One of the families featured in the video lost their mother/grandmother to COVID-19. They are participating to honour her. A United Church minister also highlighted in the video lost her two-day-old daughter. She thanked us for acknowledging the grief she feels every Mother’s Day. The campaign already feels important because it is drawing out reactions like these. 

Q: How can people donate?

TE: They can make a gift online and send as many free e-cards as they want. They can give by phone or mail a gift using information found on our website. They can also share the prayer and video and this interview in their networks. Spreading the word would really help!