5 Criteria To Select Your Church's Next Church Mother
My grandmother loved Jesus. My grandmother loved her church. My grandmother was a Church Mother, and she humbly served in that capacity until her earthly departure.
As my family and I continue to celebrate the life and legacy of my grandmother, Lula Richards, who transitioned to be with the Lord on July 26, 2019, we are reminded of all the ways she loved us and made us feel special. In fact, after publishing my post, 6 Lessons My Grandmother Taught Me, I can think of dozens more lessons to add to the list. However, there’s one question that still remains unanswered about my grandmother’s life…
How did my grandmother become a Church Mother?
For those not familiar with Black church culture, the title is given to an older woman, who has been a mainstay in the local church. In most descriptions, a Church Mother exemplifies the description found in the book of Titus, which reads:
I need somebody to hold my mule while I shout, because an older woman that has survived marriage for that long and is not a regular whiskey drinker, should definitely be celebrated and given the title of a Church Mother! My Lawd!
The Church of God in Christ, Inc. seems to be the only mainstream Black denomination to have an official role, and subsequent requirements, for a Church Mother in the life of the church. Members of the Church Mothers Board are appointed by the Pastor and must be “spirit-filled, sound minded, full of wisdom, respected and appreciated in their homes, churches, and communities; one who the pastor can trust to give guidance to the women’s ministry”.
This is a great start!
However, in many churches, regardless of denomination, the term Church Mother is used loosely and without much description. In fact, my husband, The Preacher, calls everyone over a certain age, “Mother”.
Once, during a trip to Cracker Barrel, my husband referred to Doris, our lovely Caucasian hostess, as “Mother”. I put my head down, because I knew Doris had probably never set foot in a black church. To this day, she probably thinks about the time that tall, black, unknown man called her “Mother”. *Shaking my head*
Anyway, even with the description from the Church of God in Christ, Inc., I think we should have some solid criteria in order to ensure that ALL Church Mothers, across denominational lines, and throughout all the world, have the same qualities.
Let’s get started!
A Church Mother has to be older than 70. I mean seriously, if Mother Sadie is to be a fixture in the church, she has to have lived through some stuff. No, I’m not saying that a younger woman has not had her share of trials and tribulations, but let’s be honest, nobody is going to listen to 45-year old Shanita. We aren’t going to listen to 53-year old Sis. Carmen either. How can we take financial advice from someone who doesn’t yet know how to balance their Social Security check? We just can’t trust you Carmen!
Besides, the bible talks about living until 3 score and 10, which is the age of 70. So, if 70 means something to the Lord, it means something to the church. Sis. Sadie can’t become a Church Mother until she turns 70.
A candidate for Church Mother must know at least fifteen (15) church hymns by heart, including remembering AT LEAST 3 versus to each hymn.
According to Philadelphia musician/organist/director and hymn/spiritual extraordinaire, Sheila D. Booker, Amazing Grace, is touted as the longest hymn, with THIRTEEN verses!
Therefore, while we all know the 3rd verse of most songs are usually skipped, a candidate for Church Mother must be able to recite at least five (5) verses from memory of Amazing Grace. All other hymns will require the 3 verse minimum.
The bible says write the scriptures upon your heart. Well Church Mothers must write the great hymns of the church upon their hearts as well.
Because the Pastor is typically the person who appoints Church Mothers, s/he must keep watch when the congregational hymn is sung. If Sis. Mabel meets all the other criteria, but mumbles “bubblegum, bubblegum, bubblegum” throughout the ENTIRE singing of Blessed Assurance, she cannot become a Church Mother.
The hymns and spirituals of the church are important, because many tell the story of how we got over as a people. A Church Mother needs to be able to relay this to future generations in order for us to value our rich legacy as the Black Church.
Therefore, I’m sorry Sis. Francis, if you don’t knowWhat A Fellowship, you can’t be welcomed into the fellowship of Church Mothers.
This is probably the most important. If your little plastic bag, nestled down in the side of your purse, is not filled with the right type of candy, you cannot be selected as a Church Mother.
If you have grown up in the Black Church, you already know the type of candy I’m referring to. Gum is NOT in the church candy bag.
There is a mixture of no-name butterscotch, peppermints (green and red), cinnamon candy, and strawberry candy in a strawberry-looking wrapper. No one, except Church Mothers know where to find this candy. It’s probably labeled “Church Mother Candies”.
Note: Extra points will be given for Werther’s Original hard candies, soft peppermints, and the availability of tissues. Cough drops are fine. However, a bag full of cough drops is not acceptable.
If you grew up in the Black Church, you shuddered when you read the title to this section. You know EXACTLY what I’m talking about when I describe The Look.
The Look is a facial expression that is typically given to forewarn of a behind-whooping that is looming on the horizon. The Look is a response to negative behavior, and if administered properly, will cause the negative behavior to cease immediately.
It is typically administered with a swift snap/turn of the neck, and can only be done by a seasoned individual. 37-year old Brianna snapped her neck to attempt to give The Look to someone, and has been wearing a neck brace for the past year. The Look requires a certain level of experience, and Brianna wasn’t ready!
Here’s a few examples of when The Look is necessary in church.
Folk talking during prayer
Folk attempting to walk down the center aisle when the preacher is preaching
Folk talking in the choir stand
Folk getting rowdy in the church dinner line
Folk smacking gum/eating during service
The Look is a combination of “You BET not nare” and “I will slap you into next month”. Therefore, a candidate for Church Mother, must be ready, willing, and able to administer The Look at any moment, in order to maintain decency and order in the church.
Last, but certainly not least, Holiness is a major criterion to become a Church Mother.
Titus gives us a clear example of holiness, and describes a woman who loves the Lord, a woman who is kind, chaste, self-controlled, submissive to their husbands (that knocks some of ya’ll out), and not a slave to the Henny (I’m in the Book).
However, I’d like to add a few other criterion. If Mother Bertha doesn’t wear white stockings and a white WHOLE slip, she can’t be in consideration.
Some of ya’ll don’t even know where to BUY a slip. In fact, somebody reading this doesn’t even know what a slip is. Help us Jesus!
But, white stockings and whole slips MUST be a part of the criteria. As a matter of fact, candidates must wear all white, a church hat, and SENSIBLE heels to church AT LEAST once a month to be considered. So all of ya’ll “Jazzy” 70-something-year-olds, who still wear stilettos, are OUT!
I’m sorry. I didn’t make the rules!
Note: There was an additional category up for consideration. However, after The Great Church Divide of 95, when the Council of Bishops had to step in to determine which Potato Salad was better, the category of Food is no longer a Church Mother selection criteria.
So, there you have it! These are the 5 criteria that your church must use to select the next Church Mother. It is imperative that you share this with your Pastor, post copies on the church bulletin board, and discuss this most important matter in your next church conference.
Also, PLEASE share this with those older women in your church who think they are a shoe-in for the title of Church Mother just because they speak in tongues. No, Sis. Gertrude, your candy bag is filled with stale Easter candy; you’re OUT!
When standards are put in place, foolishness can be minimized, and no one can blame the Pastor for choosing his/her favorite. Also, in the event that a Church Mother is selected, these standards will help hold her accountable. We do not want a situation where a Church Mother’s title is removed and we cannot explain why.
Now we can clearly tell Mother Roberta that her title was removed because she started singing the words to Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone, but the rest of the congregation was singing Precious Lord Take My Hand. I know they sound alike Mother, but they are different, and your Mothership has been revoked.
Go forward with the love of Christ!