This picture was taken last year when we celebrated the 20th anniversary of my Head of Staff. The kids laid hands on him as I led them in a prayer. I love this photo because of what it represents. At my church, we take the baptismal vows very seriously, especially our commitment to nurture, teach, and support the kids and their families. What is wonderful about having children in worship is what they end up teaching us.
My kids are getting older and so they no longer spend the majority of worship glued to my side. Instead for the first half of worship, they participate in a segregated program and return for the last half of worship. Most of the time during worship, I sit in the back of the sanctuary to observe. At the back of the sanctuary is where most of the toddlers are walking back and forth and wandering about. Sitting in the back helps me as a pastor/mother evaluate how worshippers are engaged and what obstacles might prohibit them from participating comfortably.
Today, there was an almost 2 year old walking around like he owned the place. While my Head of Staff was preaching, he would casually walk up the middle aisle and entice people to play peek-a-boo with him. He would stare them straight in the eyes until they responded back to him. By the time the choir director was leading the choir in the anthem, he walked up right behind her and mimicked her every move. Eventually, he joined the choir on the chancel steps with such confidence. Later, as his parents brought up the offering, he snuggled in his mother’s arms as if he had passed the baskets out himself.
Following, copying, mimicking, and exploring are ways that we learn and experience church, faith, and life. I am grateful that this church gives this almost 2 year old the freedom to explore at his will and comfort. I think as adults we need to extend that same kind of grace to each other as we follow, copy, explore, and even test our own commitments and beliefs. Like kids, may we freely sing hymns even if we can’t sing or don’t know the tune; may we get up close and personal to the rituals and the word instead of sitting in the back; may we greet each other with same amount of intention; and may we allow ourselves to wander and explore never letting our curiosity dim.