.....in Touchstone, by Christopher Hall, a Lutheran Pastor, called "Baby Pew Sitters". Here are a few quotes:
We don't, and will never, offer children's church in the church I pastor, because the alternative--"adult church"?--is not just for adults. Worship is not simply a rational intellectual exercise appealing to the hearing and understanding of adults. Nor is it a postmodern, emotional, narrative experience, that, well, also appeals to adults.
It is an encounter with the Triune God, which does not depend upon our own mental faculties (or lack thereof) or upon our emotional backgrounds, baggage, or preferences. The Word of God works, despite our sin, despite our cognitive ability, despite our age and experience.
God is no respecter of persons. Babies are welcome in my sanctuary even as they are welcome in Jesus' arms. He loves them. It's that simple.
....the shrieks of a toddler, the clunk of toys hitting the floor, the incessant scratching of pencils coloring in the bulletins--these are the beautiful noises of a family, of the Body of Christ. All of us who have been mystically united with Christ are given faith, the gift of the Spirit, the active, powerful Word.
God serves us with his supernatural gifts, and they do not depend on our age, intelligence, or capacities. God does not show favoritism toward those who can speak or those who are developed enough to pay attention for fifteen-minute or fifty-minute sermons. For we all enter the Body, becoming members of the Body the same way: through the gracious action of our God, despite our works, our abilities, and our sins.
The next time you are distracted by a baby (and hey, how about offering a hand to that struggling young mother?) or a toddler, just think of this:
When PapaC and I first moved back to the Metroplex, we were members of the Disciples of Christ. Every Disciples church is different--each calls its own minister and sets its own tone--so one church may be quite conservative, another really liberal. You have to visit each one to see if you can find one where you belong. We went first to a big downtown church close to where I had worked. A beautiful old building, with loads of space and lots of classrooms and meeting rooms and a refectory/kitchen that was fabulous.
The congragation was tiny. Many had moved out to suburban churches. Many had left this relatively liberal congregation for other places more suitable to them. When we visited, with Zack just a toddler, every member of that congregation came up to us, fawned over Zachary, wanted us to join.
"My dear, it's been so LONG since we had young'uns. We'd love to hear the laughter of a child."
Or, I suspect, the crying.
So, the next time you're in church, hearing the beautiful noise of FAMILY, think of that sweet white-haired lady's words. If you've got a lot of kids, your parish isn't dying. It's living.
And that, sweet reader, is a good thing.