Let the little children comeApril 29, 2013
This is a story of powerlessness and marginalisation that is repeated all over the place – and it is to our shame as disciples of Jesus. Where’s our guts? our verve? our passion for justice? Who will speak up and call the church on their poor, pitiful and pathetic grumbling? Over a number of years of consulting in churches that say they want to welcome children and families it has come down to this question for me. Things need to change – the way we do what we do excludes most people, even those who acquiesce to it, and sit quietly. Children who are active in our midst – who want to run and jump and touch and ask questions remind us what faith should look like – active, inquiring, curious, risk taking, unashamed, uninhibited.
The path forward for the health of the whole church, not just the sake of children and mothers, is in a radical reorientation of the church back to interactive communal cross-generational encounters of faith sharing, story sharing, and rituals of joy, peace and rememberance.
We have invested in sermons and mostly passive prayers for all of these years – and look at the church – sick and dying, flaccid and ineffectual. We can clearly see the outcome of sermons week after week and its not healthy, courageous disciples. When we give up this foolishness?
In curating gatherings for celebrating faith of all ages – occasionally people have, in anticipation been anxious – and said ‘Don’t do that! Don’t not have a sermon; don’t lead us in something interactive! We’re used to sermons! We’ll be uncomfortable.”
To which I have learned to answer: ‘Are you going to stop following Jesus if I do this?’
And usually they raise themselves up, indignant and defensive: “Of course not! I’ve been a Christian for 50 years!”
“Great! I say – because if anything I did was going to stop you following Jesus, I would desist immediately. But as you are going to keep following – and this just might give some others the chance to join you and I in following – let’s go ahead with it.”
This has to be the only criteria on which the church is configured – the making of disciples. It’s all Jesus asked us to do.
The practicalities of how to facilitate such a time are in lots of resources – every teacher knows how to lead a group in sharing their stories, moving through a process together, empowering those who need encouragement as well bringing the best out of those who have much to offer without overcoming the less robust.
Be bold and very courageous RevClaire. If you know how to do this – as you said – do it! every week! Call the bluff of the PCC and the Steely-stares. They are not made of anything but chaff. There is absolutely nothing to lose.
Yesterday was dominated by a Baptism service for two babies (noting that a Baptism service is for the glory of God, like every church service) up at our biggest church. We were expecting about 160 people, a rough count gave us 180 people there, and there wasn’t a seat left in the place (except for next to the organist on his bench, but I don’t think he’d have thanked me). Two lovely families. Two families wanting to come and bring their latest additions for baptism. Our benefice operates a generous baptism policy – the incumbent was charged by a bishop long ago to “baptise promiscuously” and has done so with enthusiasm ever since.
I love baptism services. I love being able to tell a Bible story in a way that people enjoy – I generally use a Children’s Bible and wander up and down showing pictures, often adding comments to…
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