Lent – Day 17: Children and Church

Yesterday we had an Intergenerational Mass. The kids from the Sunday School were in church and participated fully. It was GREAT to have the whole church community together. I am glad to say that we are planning to do these liturgies more often. It was really neat to have tied together what the kids have been doing with what we adults have been doing in the church. There was a great PowerPoint today of the story of Abraham and Sarah as presented by the kids. Christian Paulton did a marvellous job.

Having the children in the church participating fully in the life of the community was a real boost in the arm for me today. As each day of Lent ticks by, we look forward to the Sundays as they are feast days; days of celebration. Yesterday really felt like a day of celebration for me. Something as simple as looking at the kids, hymn books in hands singing along with the hymns gave me pause to praise God for their presence and participation. Madison was at church for the first time – at communion she was heard to say – "So this is Jesus?" I brought a visitor, to church today – Zoe who is the beautiful Golden Retriever of Donna and Jerry Marcotte. (thanks so much for your help with that) The children quite spontaneously stepped out into the aisle to greet and pet her. They joined me at the altar and they prayed with us as we consecrated the gifts of bread and wine. They lead the congregation in singing a hymn they have learned in the SS. And they were pleased as punch to see Christian present the story of Abraham and Sarah as they had lived it out in the Sunday School. All of it together was a great reflection of the ‘body of Christ’ and a reminder of how we ought to live that reality regularly, not just in church but also in our communities and in our families.

That can be a challenge for us in a world where we still often slide children off to the side and ask for their silence. Children are a very important part of the Christian Community, the wider community and of our family and need to be honoured as such. The church has for years sent children away from the community of Christ in the name of Christian Education. While it may be great that we give these kids more than they can get in church sometimes, we also have to realize that they need opportunity to participate fully in the community of faith. Christianity Today had an article a few years ago by Michelle Leise entitled Kids in Church. In it she says; "Some Christian educators believe that including children in the worship service is more than just a nice idea; it’s essential to their spiritual development. Myra Arnold, who teaches religion to 2- to 6-year-olds at Messiah Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, says, ‘Jesus intended for us to bring children into this celebration. Being part of the community of faith is the basis of us being able to live a Christian life, and children are a part of that community.’"

St. Marks offers something that I have not seen in a lot of other places. The kids love to take part in everything; at coffee hour it is not uncommon to see an eighty year old and a four year old having a meaningful conversation. I love that when there is a kid’s event that finishes up with a meal and it is open to the community people come and they participate. I want to encourage more of that. The sooner we realize that our children are no different than we are, in need of the good worship for spiritual development, the sooner we will make a better reflection the image of God in our community.

Plus we need the joy, we need the honesty and we need the humour. A few years ago, Joey Fuerth would settle in for bed and begin singing the Lord’s Prayer. Hands together we would begin, "Our Father…who is Kevin…hallowed be…etc…!" Today he noticed that I was wearing purple and wanted to know why. "I thought you might be wearing purple because the altar is purple today," Joey said. I wonder how many adults have even noticed that we have changed colours or seek to ask why?

I am so thankful for the kids in church yesterday…some Sunday we should all go to Sunday School.

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