My first experience of giving birth, to my son Luke, was traumatic and scary for more reasons than I can explain here. In contrast, my second labour, with my son Elliot, was peaceful, calm and smooth, even—dare I say it—perfect. And Charlotte … well, Charlotte’s birth was all kinds of messy. Charlie, as we affectionately call her, wanted to kick her way into the world, forcing an emergency C-section at the 11th hour.

I have birth stories. Some parents don’t. Not all children are born into a home—some parents choose their children and welcome them into a forever home through the beautiful process of adoption.

Every family is unique. Some children are raised in homes with only a mom or a dad. Some children are born or welcomed into homes with two moms or two dads. Some children are raised by grandparents, or aunts and uncles, or godparents, or guardians. And sometimes, a family unit—a complete home—is a home without children.

Every year, the arrival of spring signals that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are on the horizon. In the church, we do a good job of celebrating “traditional” families. Unfortunately, we don’t do a good job of including unique families—and have even perpetuated hurtful and unkind attitudes that can make people feel incomplete if their family does not resemble the “ideal”—a husband, wife and children.

We have also often failed to remember those who silently writhe in pain during these celebrations of parenthood. Not everyone receives the label “mom” or “dad.” For many women and men, the topic of birth, children and parenthood causes unimaginable pain—a reality that breaks my heart time and time again as I journey alongside those who grieve infertility or the loss of a child. There are no easy words of comfort. There is no formula for moving through and past the ache.

Sometimes, these celebrations can stir up a host of emotions as we grapple with parent-child relationships and all they entail.

I was in my 20s before I heard the term “Women’s Day” and “Men’s Day” as a replacement for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I was grateful and forever changed by the love and grace behind the idea of recognizing all women and men—not just those who had children of their own.

I say “of their own” intentionally. Some of the most profound, grace-infused relationships I’ve witnessed are between a parent and a non-biological child, brought together through deep need.

Perhaps the focus on traditional families is no longer an issue where you worship. Perhaps you already celebrate many ways of being a parent. If that’s true of your church, I congratulate you on the openness with which you approach these days. What I do know is that trying to uphold celebrations that honour specific groups of people is messy and hard. Even with the best of intentions, we often get it wrong.

As a denomination, my hope is that The Salvation Army would welcome all at the table—that we would celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with integrity, grace, openness and kindness, demonstrating our calling to show the world we are Christians (Christ followers) by our love. And that means including and loving every unique family just as they are.

Jesus didn’t have biological children of his own, but he had an earthly mother and father—a mother who was young and unwed when she found out she was pregnant, and a father who tossed aside all cultural expectations to claim Jesus as his own.

Yes, we celebrate all moms and dads. Parenting is a tough job and not for the faint of heart. Can we celebrate all families with bravery and grace? Are we willing to abide in the pain of those who suffer and can we celebrate diversity? Let’s remember that we’re all part of God’s family—we all belong.

Lieutenant Erin Metcalf is the corps officer at Niagara Orchard Community Church in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Feature photo: © Highwaystarz-Photography/


On Friday, May 11, 2018, Kevin said:

Thanks Erin, beautifully written, I have known you for a long time and am proud to know you as a woman, a mom and a pastor. Happy Mothers Day!



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