I’m continuing my “Secrets of a Pew Whisperer” series over at GrowChristians. The latest post is here: Explaining the Game.
This time, I’m wrestling with one of the complaints I hear—that adults don’t like that their kids interrupt them from worshiping. I’m suggesting that we look at it in a different way… Are they interruptions or teachable moments?
I grew up in a parish in which children came to Sunday Mass and never made a bit of noise. Why? (a)There was a great pile of (silent) stuffed toys at the baptismal font near the entryway. (b) The rule was that unless they were in danger, children were not restrained—if they wished to walk around, even up to the altar, that was totally acceptable.(c) Every parishioner was a “parent” to every child there—so no matter where the child was,someone was nearby with an eye on her or him. (d) The sermon was put at the END of Mass, so the children could leave for Sunday School and didn’t have to sit through a sermon,, and (e) All boys (no girls in those days) automatically became a acolytes at the age of 8—and vested every Sunday and carried torches in procession, and lined up along the side walls of the sanctuary during Mass—until they were old enough to be given a task.
And, by the way, that rector send twenty-four people to seminary in a twenty-seven year ministry!
I read with interest your post about “explaining the game,” and this leapt out at me:
“. . . they can’t focus on what’s going on and therefore they don’t get anything out of it.”
We old people, Sunday Schooled many, many years ago, were taught that we attended service to “put something into it,” not to “get something out of it.” Uninterrupted focus isn’t terribly important if you’ve paused to help a child “put something into it.” As a pew whisperer, you know that the rest of the congregation is perfectly capable of carrying on without you for a moment!
You will no doubt find this hard to believe, but the ordinary Sunday School sessions I attended week after week in the 1950s consisted of Morning Prayer from the 1928 BCP (yes, the whole thing, including hymns and the canticles set to Anglican chant, and a short sermon and offering) followed by graded classes, where we got not only Bible stories (the nice moral ones), but Prayer Book study as well, every week. By the time we got to confirmation age (which at that time was 12 or older), we were pretty well schooled in the basics of public worship. And an entire school year of “Confirmation Class” ensured that we knew what was going on in the Eucharist before we ever graduated from Kid Church to Big Church.
I don’t really expect anyone to revive Kid Church in this day and age, but it sure forestalled a lot of “What’s he/she doing now?” stuff. By the time we were confirmed and had graduated to Big Church, we were ready to participate fully.
Now we have an entire generation (or two?) that missed this sort of education. And as you said, we can’t pass on what we don’t have. I don’t know what the solution is, but somewhere along the way “Prayer Book Studies” would be a very good thing to revive. Of course, we now have to deal with a Prayer Book that contains at least two versions of everything, including six or seven Eucharistic Prayers, not to mention a whole bunch of boring EOW* stuff, plus various odd rites authorized by local bishops or used without authorization, according to the whims of the parish clergy.
Add to this the fact that many parishes have more or less given up on The Hymnal and are using all sorts of “songs” and “choruses, ” some of them vaguely Christian though hardly liturgical, but most of which are just songs about “me and how I feel.”
Is it any wonder that some people are a little uncertain about just what they’re supposed to be doing in church? Never mind explaining it to a child!
There now, that’s plenty long for today’s rant.
*EOW is known to some of our local high-church congregations as “Impoverishing our Worship: Detrimental Liturgical Materials”!
However, another major piece of parental uncomfortability with Ash Wednesday is all about sheltering but isn t focused on the kids. It’s about us. We re trying to shelter ourselves.