Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

The Archbishop of Canterbury from Lambeth Palace

For Mothering Sunday the Archbishop of Canterbury reflects on this troubling time for our nation in this service recorded in the Chapel of Lambeth Palace.

For Mothering Sunday the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reflects on this troubling time for our nation and the world in this service recorded in the Chapel of Lambeth Palace. The service is led by his chaplain, the Revd Prebendary Dr Isabelle Hamley, with music by St Martin's Voices. The producer is Andrew Earis.

38 minutes

Last on

Sun 22 Mar 2020 08:10

Order of Service

Archbishop Justin

Good morning to all of you, at this strange time in the life of our world. Today is mothering Sunday, a day when traditionally all went back to their mother church, to the place where they were nurture, loved and formed into the ways of God. Today of course we often also celebrate mother’s day, a day to thank those who have mothered us in all the way we can be cared for. It is usually a day of celebration, when we draw together with family and loved ones.

And so this day is a strange one for those of us, here in the United Kingdom, and in many parts of the world, when we are torn between our need to keep life going, to celebrate relationships and kindness, and the fear and imposed isolation that we face. This is a day when we are not able to go and see those we love, or care for loved ones considered to be vulnerable or at risk. Maybe this means this is a good Sunday for us to call our churches and our nation to prayer and action.

At difficult times, we have a choice: to focus on fear, on ourselves, on what we cannot do. Or we can turn to God and let him lead us into praying for the world, and letting prayer flow into creative action. This is what we want to do today. To remind ourselves that life carries on, and that there is much to celebrate in our communities. To listen to the voice of God’s caring love for us, and his encouragement to turn ourselves towards others and how we can care for those around us, in person or virtually.

In line with this, I must add that this service was recorded here, in my home at Lambeth Palace, with the absolute minimum number of staff, keeping appropriate social distancing, and no congregation. Today we are separated in space, but we’re still worshipping together before God. And so please do join in from home in prayer, in responses, even in singing, and let us worship together. Lots of churches this morning are streaming acts of worship in their own communities and beyond, and finding inventive and creative ways of being church. We are having to be inventive too, and our music this morning was recorded by four singers from St Martin’s Voices in their church of St Martin-in-the-Fields just up the river from here, but it feels like they are with me. We begin now with the hymn, Lord of all hopefulness.

HYMN: Lord of all hopefulness (tune: Slane)

So this morning we pray and place before God the life of our world. And we light this candle to remind us that the love of God is like a light in our darkness.
All: Blessed be God for ever.

On this mothering Sunday, when many are far from family, friends or loved ones, we light a candle for all those we cannot be physically present with.
All: Blessed be God for ever.

We light a candle for all who are sick, all who are in hospital, all who struggle with pain, fear and sadness, and all who are grieving this day
All: Blessed be God for ever.

MUSIC: Kyrie eleison (Russian traditional)

We light a candle for all who are isolated, lonely and worried at this time
All: Blessed be God for ever.

We light a candle for all those who care for others, whether as family or friends, or as doctors, nurses, carers and all the health professionals we are so deeply thankful for.
All: Blessed be God for ever.

MUSIC: Christe eleison (Russian traditional)

And on this mothering Sunday,
We light this candle for all mothers who have loved and laughed and laboured as they cared for their children;
All: Blessed be God for ever.

We light this candle for all mothers who have wept in sorrow and joy for their children:
All: Blessed be God for ever.

We light this candle for Jesus, born of a woman and nurtured in her love, and for Mary, a reminder of your patient, waiting love.
All: Blessed be God for ever.

MUSIC: Kyrie eleison (Russian traditional)

Praise God who loves us.
All: Praise God who cares.

God of love,
passionate and strong,
tender and careful:
watch over us and hold us
all the days of our life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

MUSIC: Psalm 23 (chant by Walford Davies)

Reading: 2 Corinthians 1.3-7

MUSIC: A Song of St Anselm (setting by Thomas Allain Chapman)

Reading: John 19.25-27

Music: Benedictus (Music: John Harper)


There are some places that speak to our hearts very powerfully. For me there are bits of London, where I was born and spent a lot of my childhood, and there’s a section of the North Norfolk coast around Blakeney. It was where my grandmother lived and it has memories of cold winters and a fire, of security, of summers messing about in mud and sand, or later on, in a boat. Good memories.

Many of my friends in Africa, however long they have lived in the big city, talk about ‘my village’ in the same way.

Mothering Sunday is about place – about knowing where we are rooted, what gives us life, how we are related to others. It’s a place for starting from and returning to, in ancient tradition to the church where we were baptised, where we grew in faith.

But today many of us are disconnected from our roots, from our mother place. Lacking roots we now have to find ways to make a place of safety and welcome for other people at a difficult time. The temptation is, of course, to pull up the drawbridge and just look after ourselves. That’s the kind of thing that leads to panic buying, to growing fear and to spiritual and emotional as well as physical isolation. That kind of fear, in the end, destroys us.

In our gospel reading we heard how Jesus created the first Christian community even while he was hanging on the cross. Two people left alone by his death, his mother and his closest friend. Through him now they find a new place and new hope. Even in the darkest moments Jesus Christ comes to us and makes a new place of nurture and hope for us. All we have to do is co-operate, listen to him, obey him, as John did with Mary, do what he says.

So how do we find consolation when fear and alarm, or struggle and suffering strike us? Many people would say their parents, often from their mothers. For plenty of others that is not true. Parenting is not simple. The one who bore us may be one who fails us, even betrays us. I suspect St Anselm, a long ago Archbishop of Canterbury, knew much love from his mother. Writing 800 years ago he likens God to a mother, and speaks so tenderly of that relationship of love that I imagine he can only have learned it at home.

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you; you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

All love has its source in the immeasurable, wonderful love of God. All consolation comes from God, through being loved, and it comes to us abundantly, so that we can give it to others. Paul is breathtakingly honest at the beginning of the second letter to the Corinthians. He speaks of suffering and failure that almost destroyed him. Yet, somehow God consoled him in such a way that he could consoled others.

How did that happen? We don’t know. Perhaps through friends. Perhaps in deep prayer. I find consolation from God in moments of desolation in all sorts of ways. The love of family. Silent contemplation in the chapel. The prayers of a friend.

But to console others we must find our own consolation in God. It’s not a case of fake it until you make it. Its more seek until you find, come to God looking for the means to console the frightened, the panic struck, the panic buying, the fearful around.

In all of the current troubles, and they really are serious troubles, looking inwards will only reveal the limit of our own resources, and lead to deeper fear and selfishness.

Acting in love found from God in Jesus Christ will do the reverse. As we look out in love we can enable people to find the place of their nurture, a new place where they meet God. As we share our consolation the mother love of God will enfold them. As we love the poor, as we go and give to a food back, call someone isolated, do their shopping, pray with and for them from a distance, we will find that we are deeply consoled by our own gift of consolation.

Someone I know well, filled with understandable anxiety, posted a letter through every door in her street, inviting people to join her in caring for one another. The immediate result of these actions was wonderful. Strangers responded. Hope began. Of such small acts of love we make new communities as Jesus did with his mother and the beloved disciple. Of such small consolation we create hope in a time of sickness. And then we find God and know our call from God, driving out fear, filled with faith. 

MUSIC: Ubi caritas – Ola Gjeilo

Since the very beginning of the church there have been times where Christians cannot meet together for all kinds of reasons and yet they can still share faith and prayers together. And one of the ways we do that is through the words of the Creed. The Creed reminds us of the faith of the church universal, beyond borders and beyond time – they remind us that even when we are separated and dispersed, we share our faith and our prayers with Christians throughout the world and throughout the centuries.

Praise God who loves us.
All: Praise God who cares.
Let us declare our faith in God.

All: I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Let us pray.

God of love and kindness,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
God of love,
All   hear our prayer.

God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
God of love,
All   hear our prayer.

Merciful God,
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God of love,
All   hear our prayer.

God of the world and its people,
we pray for all those parts of the world suffering in so many ways.
We pray for those without adequate medical resources,
We pray for those who are facing war, conflict and displacement,
as well as the challenges of Covid-19,
and we place all your precious children into your hands.
God of love,
Hear our prayer.

As God’s children, and heirs with Christ
we cry in the Spirit, ‘Abba’, Father.

MUSIC: The Lord’s Prayer (John Bell)

Loving God, accept the cries of our heart as we offer you prayers;
through them transform us and all creation until you are in all and through all.
We ask these and all our prayers in the name of Jesus.
All: Amen.

MUSIC: Now thank we all our God (Tune: Nun danket)

Praise God who loves us.
All: Praise God who cares.

May God, who gave birth to all creation, bless you:
may God, who became incarnate by an earthly mother, bless you:
May almighty God bless you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and for ever.
All: Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
All: In the name of Christ. Amen.

Prayer of St Patrick- John Rutter


  • Sun 22 Mar 2020 08:10

A Passion for Hospitality

A Passion for Hospitality

Lent resources for individuals and groups.

Lent Talks

Lent Talks

Six people reflect on the story of Jesus' ministry and Passion from their own perspectives

No fanfare marked Accession Day...

No fanfare marked Accession Day...

In the Queen, sovereignty is a reality in a life, says the Dean of Westminster.

The Tokyo Olympics – Stretching Every Sinew

The Tokyo Olympics – Stretching Every Sinew

Athletes' reflections on faith and competing in the Olympics.

"We do not lose heart."

"We do not lose heart."

Marking the centenary of HRH Prince Philip's birth, a reflection from St George's Chapel.

St David's Big Life Hack

St David's Big Life Hack

What do we know about St David, who told his monks to sweat the small stuff?

Two girls on a train

Two girls on a train

How a bystander's intervention helped stop a young woman from being trafficked.

Sunday Worship: Dr Rowan Williams

Sunday Worship: Dr Rowan Williams

How our nation can rise to the huge challenges it faces, post-Covid-19.