nave at half capacity

Written by Caroline Lamar, church member and guest blogger.

Today was our second Sunday back at church since before the pandemic. Despite masks and preregistration, it is wonderful to walk through those doors and worship together in person. To be clear, our church never closed. We fed our community members experiencing homelessness on Thursdays, we participated in Bible study, Sunday School classes, and even choir. Our sanctuary was closed to us though, so coming back has been a bit of a reawakening for me.

Our church nursery has not yet reopened which means there are lots of kiddos in “big church” as we often call it. Today, some of those kids were quite vocal in their participation, even in times which some might have deemed inappropriate.

To the parents of those noisy kids today I have a few words I want to share with you. First of all, I see you. OK, OK, I didn’t actually see you because you were somewhere behind me in the sanctuary. But I see you because I have been you. I know exactly what you went through to get your children up, fed, dressed (perhaps dressed again if the morning didn’t go well) and to church on time, or some proximity of on time. I recognize that right now you actually had to plan ahead of time to go to church because we are registering in advance, part of our Covid protocols. We have three children who are now teens/pre-teens but I remember well the way we used to plan church attendance around feeding, naps, and snacks. I can’t imagine adding a pandemic to the mix.

So in addition to seeing you, I also want to thank you for bringing your children to church. Our pastor mentioned before her sermon today how much she loves seeing all the children. I know our pastor; she really means this. It is not a platitude. It brings her (and the rest of us) great joy to see and hear children at church. I know that when your kids got loud/kicked the pew in front of you/dropped crayons/crinkled paper/asked in a mock whisper how much longer was this going to take…that you were sweating through your shirt and second guessing your decision to even come in the first place.

We had one of those Sundays many years ago. All three kids were not in the best mood. They were restless, they were loud. We attend a very traditional worship service and I was keenly aware of those parishioners around me. I felt responsible for “ruining” their worship experience. I knew they were watching and silently judging me. That day after church an elderly member of our congregation passed me a note and walked away. I shoved it in the pocket of my coat and hurried everyone out to the car. I knew the note was probably saying I should get my kids under control during worship. Later I opened the note and it said, “You have a beautiful family.” Full stop. That little note on a scrap of paper completely changed my perspective. Kids need to be kids, even in worship, especially in worship. And while I obviously wasn’t there, I like to think of all the times Jesus preached to noisy crowds of people. I would venture to guess it was loud…small kids running around, livestock making their presence known, shouts from nearby shopkeepers. Silence isn’t a prerequisite for worship. Is it good to have times of silence? Yes, of course, but noisy kids in church do not detract from anything the rest of us are trying to do.

Because church isn’t about me. It’s not about my “experience.” It is about worshiping God and the risen Christ, and quite frankly, when I think of it that way, why are any of us quiet about it?

Our church isn’t doing congregational hymns right now, and the music is being provided by a choral ensemble. Today, as they sang the Doxology (a song that gets me EVERY single time), I could hear the little girl two pews in front of me. Even behind her mask, she was singing loudly, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” It reminded me of another of my favorite hymns, “How Can I Keep From Singing?”

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

So moms and dads with noisy kids in church, please don’t stop bringing them. Let them make noise and praise God in their own ways. If you see me cast a glance in your direction, just know I have been in your shoes and I remember. And since I am firmly on the other side of that phase of parenting, I want to tell you that one day your children will get themselves dressed for church and they will join you in the pew and recite the prayers and listen to the sermon and ask insightful questions on the way home. Hang in there, you’re doing great.

This blog was originally published on Caroline’s personal blog here