Reflections on Helping Children in the Divine Services
by Presbytera Catherine
We have been worshiping in our new beautiful temple for around three months now and I have a few suggestions of how we can improve our situations as we worship together in the beauty of God's holiness. It is truly a great joy to be children iof God and to belong to the family of believers on earth. There are too many joys to count that come from our family in Jesus Christ. However, in that family we also have struggles and wrinkles that need to be ironed out. Hopefully these struggles can prove the greatness of our love for one another and for our Lord Jesus. I have noticed , as many of you have, that the noise level is much, much louder in our new temple. Hence, when one of my little ones is extra playful or just having a tough time, their little noises and cries are echoed around the entire church. This is sometimes so unpredictable and sudden that there is nothing that can be done for that split second. However, each of us parents and older siblings who are caring for the little ones, need to be aware of those around us, the elderly who strain in order to hear every word), the visitors (who may not yet understand what is taking place in the service) and those without young ones (who certainly don’t have the patience or understanding that we do of our children). If that unexpected cry is one that will continue for more than 2-3 seconds, the child needs to be quickly taken outside until he/she calms down and is ready to re-enter the sanctuary. They are smarter than we give them credit for and are able to learn that the sanctuary is a place of prayer and quiet. I remember many years ago when I had only Chad, Aidan and Victoria in church and I was feeling so overwhelmed and sad that I had to spend much of the service outside. I was speaking with my spiritual father about how I felt and he said something that forever changed my perspective of worship and my children...no matter what their little demeanor was. He said, “When we come to the Church for worship, we are coming to commune with the Living God. This is our whole purpose and our hearts desire to meet him. When you have to leave the Divine Service because your little ones need you, need to be changed, are fussing over a tooth coming in, or a stomach ache or ten other reasons….then remember that in taking care of them with love, it is there that you will find your communion with God.” This really changed me that day because I was often feeling “out” wanting to be “in”...yet it was then that I recognized that for this reason of my life, being “out” might be exactly where I will be “in” …communion, that is, with my Maker. So don’t hesitate, feeling discouraged if you have to scurry out with a little one making noise, it is just for a season and many others who are there to worship have already “been there and done that” and are wanting to enter a different place of peace.
In regards to the summer heat, I have asked that we could open the upstairs in the hall and turn on the air conditioning for a place to take the children that is cool and comfortable, while their needs are being cared for. I would also like to implore our seasoned mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, and godparents to have patience and look at the young mothers as your own
daughters, the young fathers as your sons and their children as your own grandchildren. They are family after all...and these are the ways that we struggle with our family. Please try to express your feelings in love to them if you are having trouble hearing or concentrating and if you are able why not ask if you can take one of the babies for a walk outside to give the parent a break. To send an evil eye or a scowl, even if mothers are being insensitive or unhelpful, doesn’t accomplish the desired end. Loving correction is to be preferred. It would be welcomed from a heart of love I am sure! I would like to interject here a comment to parents to not take a word from one of our elders or ushers as an insult, but rather as a word from one who is trying to help the whole community work together and let us remember the words of the apostle Paul to Titus:
"Let the older women teach the younger women to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands so that the word of God may not be dishonored." Titus 2:4-5
So if we could endeavor to let love and mercy be the guiding principle both for those with young and those without young, we will go a long way! If there is any need to discuss this please feel free to approach me I would be happy to help in any way I am able...even brainstorm with you. My prayer is for our mutual love, respect and peace as we work to build our family...the body of Christ...an expression of His Heavenly Family here at Saint Andrew in Riverside.