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Leis, drive-through prayer, gift e-cards mark Mother’s Day during COVID-19

HONOLULU (BP) — In Hawaii, a welcoming sentiment of aloha or love is expressed with ornamental leis, the garlands often liberally layered to extend above the eyes.

University Avenue Baptist Church in Honolulu will honor mothers Saturday (May 9) with a drive-through distribution of floral leis in the church parking lot, accompanied by prayers, in advance of an online Mother’s Day service Sunday morning. Each mother will be given two leis — one to keep and another to give to a friend.

“Our vision is the whole family will pile into the car and drive mom to the parking lot. We’re not asking anybody to get out,” pastor Chris Irving said, “but as they come through, they’ll be handed the lei and their instructions on how to give the second one out, be told ‘Happy Mother’s Day, thank you’ — the Hawaiian word for thank you is mahalo — and then before they leave, I’ll just say a quick prayer of blessing over each family that comes through.”

As America celebrates Mother’s Day, the second major national holiday since the Covid-19 pandemic shut doors across the U.S. in March, churches are creatively honoring women while observing social distancing or crowd limitations. Among outreaches are cookies, flowers, potted plants, e-gifts or gift boxes, and video messages from children honoring their mothers during livestreamed services.

Irving learned the importance of leis when he preached in view of a call in the summer of 2019 and the church showered his family with leis. When the church holds worship services at its church building, guests who visit are given leis made of seashells.

“It’s just a sign of love and respect and appreciation for that particular person you’re giving the lei to,” Irving said. “We’re going to give them some instruction with the second lei to give to a woman or a mother in their neighborhood, one of their neighbors, as a sign of love and appreciation for them, with appreciation from our church. It’s a way to do some outreach as well.”

Onsite worship

At Easthaven Baptist Church in Kalispell, Mont., Sunday will be the second day of onsite worship after worshiping only online for several weeks amid the pandemic. The church will provide individually wrapped roses for mothers.

“We’ve ordered individually wrapped roses that their children or grandchildren will pick up so that nobody else is handing them out; nobody else is touching them, only family units,” said college and young adult pastor Jon Dowling. “And so their kids will come and get a rose to give to their mom or their grandma. And we’ll have extra roses that will be able to be given to shut-ins, or those who are not comfortable coming back out into public gatherings, and also other community members.”

Dowling’s children are among those who will give roses to their neighbors.

“We’ve got two neighbor ladies who aren’t going out in public and aren’t believers, and so we will get roses for them and deliver them that day,” he said. “What a great opportunity for us to reach out, and Mother’s Day is a perfect opportunity for us to be a bright light in what is increasingly a dark world around us.”

The church of about 1,000 Sunday worshipers returned May 3 to its sanctuary, removing rows of seats to preserve social distancing, wearing masks and taking other precautions.

Online worship

Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia continues to livestream worship with pastor K. Marshall Williams preaching from the pulpit to worshipers and guests at home. But that won’t prevent the church from recognizing mothers.

“We will call, email and text Happy Mother’s Day devotionals, cards, gift cards and prayers,” Marshall said. “Motherhood is a high and holy calling given by God and is to be honored and celebrated every day by the people of God.”

Drive-in worship

Ray Rhodes Jr., pastor of Grace Community Church of Dawsonville, Ga., holds services from a makeshift platform and stage in the church parking lot, complete with instruments, amplifier, pulpit and a music group. Worshipers either remain in their cars or place chairs in front of their vehicles while socially distancing.

He no longer continues the tradition of giving mothers individual gifts on Mother’s Day.

“I try to broaden that because not all women are mothers and not all women can be mothers,” Rhodes said. “But we want to value all the ladies in our church. I always try to draw attention to that as well, that God has gifted us all and all are valuable in His eyes and a blessing to the church.

“Mother’s Day we draw attention to all the ladies of the church, not just mothers,” he said. “And then, our ladies do so much in ministry — front line really, in ministry — as is the case in many churches.”