Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

When Mother’s Day Hurts

First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Mich., to hold service of hope and healing

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Bethany Peerbolte is associate pastor of youth and mission at First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Mich. (Photo by Andrew Niven Jowett)

LOUISVILLE — The closest the Rev. Bethany Peerbolte has come to heartache associated with Mother’s Day was a couple years ago, when her parents moved from Michigan to North Carolina. “I’m like, ‘If that was hard for me, I can’t imagine what the people in my church are going through when they’ve lost a mother or haven’t had a mother figure who’s really been kind and loving to them, like a mother should be.’”

Peerbolte, associate pastor of youth and mission at First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Mich., and her ministry colleagues recognize that there are many bitter emotions that can come up around parenting holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparents’ Day. In fact, she said First Presbyterian Birmingham intentionally doesn’t mention mothers on the second Sunday in May because it is not a joyous occasion for everyone.

This year for the first time, the church is going a step further by holding a special evening service prior to Mothering Sunday, When Mother’s Day Hurts, offering anyone struggling with painful Mother’s Day associated feelings “a chance to grieve, to lament and to invite the God who loves us into our struggle,” Peerbolte said.

The theme of the When Mother’s Day Hurts service comes from Genesis 3:1-13, about Eve: Mother to All, Mothered by None. Eve was the first woman to grieve the loss of a son. The service is patterned after a service for  Mother’s Day Runaways,  materials created by an Anglican vicar, the Rev. Sonya Doragh, who was raped by two men at age 17 and experienced infertility as a result. Doragh waived her right to anonymity, forgave her attackers and worked in partnership with bloggers, Saltwater and Honey, to create the runaways’ service. The Saltwater and Honey blog provides a way for people experiencing infertility, miscarriage and childlessness to share their stories and examine how their stories interact with faith. As the bloggers explain, if you are experiencing these issues, “You’re not alone. It’s OK to grieve. Your story matters.”

“I know with my friends who deal with infertility, it’s a hard Sunday to be here to see all these people joyously with their families and babies. It’s a reminder that they don’t have a family yet, or they’ve lost children,” Peerbolte said. “So we wanted to have a space for people to come and see that there is a community of ‘you,’ that God is in this struggle and that it’s OK to feel sad, but it’s also OK to feel happy.”

“It’s kind of like the ‘Blue Christmas’ idea, but closer to Mother’s Day,” Peerbolte added. It’s for anyone for whom the pain associated with parenting holidays causes them to walk, even run away from communities of faith.

“I have had a very wonderful mother and a lovely life,” Peerbolte explained. “For that one little tinge, that one Mother’s Day to be hard for me made me realize that this is a really, really hard thing for other people who can’t make a phone call to say, ‘Hey, Mom, I’m feeling bad today.’”

When Mother’s Day Hurts: A Service of Hope and Healing will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 1669 W. Maple Rd., Birmingham, Mich., at 7 p.m. on May 2.

For more information, contact Peerbolte at

First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Mich., known as Everybody’s Church, strives to be a faithful, open and inclusive community welcoming full participation of all people of any ability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other life circumstance. The church is committed to following Jesus by cultivating mission, inclusion and community.


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.