August 8, 2011

A Children's Place

Episcopalians aren’t the only people God trusts to take the summer off.

At our church, the nursery attendant goes home from college, and the kids join the congregation for the whole service.

During the program year, the nursery is staffed with a friendly undergrad who brings her young charges to the service during the peace. This gives the kids a time with the priest during a brief children’s sermon. They partake in the Eucharist or “God bread” as my children call it. The shorter time period means that most children stay relatively church-behaved – solemn and relatively quiet.

But an entire Rite II service tests the sit-still-ability of even the most sedate child. Goldfish crackers and crayons only satisfy for so long.

Today, a whole retinue of princess dolls lined a pew, with an adorable 2-year-old playing and laughing. In another row, Lego blocks spread across the seat, with a child (truth be told, he was my son) sitting on the kneeler and creating a castle creation. He set aside the Legos to listen to an amazing solo and started clapping until he realized he was the only one. A young toddler wandered the narthex, squealing as he made a break for the communion rail.

It will be nice when the nursery attendant returns, and the kids have a place to run off their energy, to imagine stuffed animals into a flock of friends, to laugh without being shushed. And to be sure, it will be of some comfort to the parents who worry that the noise of their children distracts others from worship.

But I love when we are all together, all ages, gathered for church. And in my opinion, a giggle here and there only makes the worship more sacred, more alive.