Monday, August 27, 2012

A child's-eye Eucharist

I had an interesting experience at church yesterday - a first, I'd say, in 34 years. Instead of sitting in the front pew where I can hiss at the organist if he falls asleep, I was in the social area at the rear with an assortment of children. Two of them were with me; I'd taken the chance to have my granddaughters with me all morning and so was responsible for the smallest child present (Anna is 20 months old). As the older children actually do creative things during the service, I watched the tiny and joined in the singing in a faintly distracted fashion - and in a way, apart from greeting a different bunch of people at the Peace and going up to read because it was my turn, that was it.

Oh, I received the Sacrament, and it was lovely to have the weans blessed - but in fact I felt like a different person. Instead of being aware of every word, every nuance, every move in the Eucharist, I could hear practically nothing of what was said. My concentration was entirely taken up with the area around me and the small people in it, and if you asked me what the sermon was about I'd be hard pushed to tell you.Even the singing sounded a bit distant, and when I joined in I think I startled the children around me. What seemed important to me was that they were there, that they were happy, and that people seemed happy to see them. My two obviously felt relaxed and safe, and neither of them seemed inclined to make loud noises - not even Anna, who modulated her questions ("What's that?") to a suitable sotto voce. Catriona, the elder, who has just started school, was so engrossed in her colouring-in activity that she was still at it as the congregation came down to join them at coffee time; her only regret was that she couldn't dance in the aisle as her granddad played the organ.

So ...? So I think that the ministry exercised by those who work at the church experience for children is an amazing piece of giving - giving not only to the weans but also to the rest of the congregation, who are able to feel the joy of having children in church without the stress of wondering what they'll do next. So I think that if there is a facility like this in church, this is where parents of a young child should take that child rather than struggle with it in the pews where the battle distracts everyone around them. So I am really happy that this happens in my church, but equally happy that I personally don't have to do it every week.

For make no mistake: this is giving, self-giving with a vengeance.  And I thank God for it.

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