I was at church yesterday morning - a place that, at 30, I truly enjoy being. I enjoy the community, the ritual, the sanctity, the peace, and - most importantly - I want to pass that along to my children. Imagine my horror, then, when during the peace, a woman whom I've attended church with for six years now (though admittedly is someone I know only by name) reached in to hug me and wish me God's peace and noted, "You know he should be in the nursery, right?"
While I now have a slightly bitter diatribe prepared, at the time all I could come up with was, "Umm..?" When I finally picked my jaw up off the floor, I was able to indicate that, yes, I knew about the nursery, but I liked him to be in here, taking it all in.
"Well, he's not," she stated, in no uncertain terms.
I don't know if you've been reading for long, but if you have, you know I have no problem expressing myself. I'm not easily shaken, and stand firm in my beliefs. Yet still, with this overt statement that my child was not welcome in the chapel, it took me a minute to find my ground again. In fact, after the peace, as we sat through announcements, and birthday and anniversary blessings, and prepared for communion and the like, I was so upset by her comments that I took my son into the nursery to change his diaper, and left him there while my daughter and I returned to the chapel. We continued through the service, rising to take communion, and though it may have been more peaceful for a few, I felt unsettled. It's not uncommon for mother's to feel this way when separated from their children, so I dismissed it, but when we received communion, Ava looked at me sadly and asked, "But when is Jack Jack getting his chip?"
We immediately bolted to the nursery and returned to receive communion as a family.
I've gotten off topic, but all this is to say this: I'm sorry if the presence of children in church can be distracting. I'm sorry that my five-year-old sometimes sits in the pew next to me and reads to my one-year-old from the Bible stories in the kid's area in the back (note: there is a KID'S AREA inside the chapel!). I'm sorry that my daughter talks through the service, but do you know what she's asking? She's asking about the stories. She's asking about the resurrection. She's asking about the significance of the cross hanging up above us. She's asking about the lyrics. These are discussions that, while potentially ill-timed, are so important. In fact, though they may not be active adult participants at this time, and they may not sit perfectly still, enthralled by the sermon, they ARE taking it all in. They are getting a feel for the rituals and rites of our church. They're learning the words to some of our most storied songs. They're putting dollar bills into the collection plate and learning why. They're bearing witness to the love and the joy and the sadness and pain that is our history. And someday, when they're grown and leave my home and are out in the world without my constant input and guidance, they'll be looking for familiarity. They'll be exploring their history, and how it impacts their future. And they'll need a place that feels like home. It is my most important wish that, when that inevitably happens, that they will look to Him and find it in His house, rather than outside of Him. So yes, my children can be noisy. Sometimes those goldfish crunch louder than one would think possible. Once, Jack even had a blowout that was embarrassingly audible during the sermon. But please, bear with us, and remember: Wherever you are in your journey of faith, you are welcome at this table.