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Mothering Souls: A Vocation of Intercession

Donyelle Charlotte McCray


Intercession can constitute the heart of one’s prayer life and even become a defining mark of one’s vocation. Such is the case for the “church mother,” a distinct role held by esteemed elderly laywomen in African American congregations. This article consists of an introduction to the church mother’s vocation. The piece begins with an examination of the roots of the role in American slavery and follows with an exploration of the ways race, gender, and advancing age shape the church mother’s unique form of spiritual authority. I examine two key qualifications for the role: divine call and longevity in the parish. Then, I delve into the church mother’s robust understanding of prayer and explain how theodicy and hope fuel her intercessions. The article closes with a brief profile of a beloved Episcopal church mother from the twentieth century, Mattie Hopkins.

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