September 24, 2006

Children? In Worship?

The gospel reading assigned to this day by the lectionary is from Matthew: "Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." For this day, I decided to not only extend a special invitation to little children and their families, but to make the little children themselves a visible demonstration of the message --- just as Jesus did when he took the little child into his arms as he taught the disciples.

Instead of being dismissed to the nursery after the children's moment, the children were invited to the back of the sanctuary, where a table had been set up with large pieces of paper, crayons, play-dough, and small toys. They were invited to remain during the whole service, creating images and worshiping God through their art & play.

It was a bit distracting, to say the least.

Then again, that was the point. The sermon (which you can read here) re-emphasized the Jesus' teaching that welcoming children = welcoming God. Many people commented after worship, "It sure was nice to see all the children in church today!" Or, "They truly are the image of God." On the other hand, some were made uncomfortable by the children's presence, and one member even got up and left halfway through the service. She didn't even stay long enough to find out why the children were invited to stay during worship in the first place.

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