A friend was recently reminiscing about her experiences of being in a church sanctuary as a child. She told the story of savoring the Lifesavers from her grandmother’s purse and waiting impatiently for the next time she could stand up and sing.
It brought back a lot of memories for me, too. Especially the memories of going to church with my Catholic grandmother, back in the time when the service was in Latin, so I couldn’t understand anything that was happening. I think we were singing in English, anyway. I have strong memories of awe about all the rituals. The priest swinging the incense, the people lined up for communion (unlike the Episcopal church of my upbringing, we were not welcome to go to the front for communion or even a blessing that I can remember). The fascination with hearing a different language, probably my earliest exposure to a language other than English. And so many songs and so much chanting!
My colleague, Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, continued —
A child’s world is full of experiences that they do not fully understand. They navigate the world taking cues from their caregivers and peers on expectations until they grow into their own understanding of the purpose of these shared experiences. Yet if they feel valued, safe, and know the experience is significant for the adults around them, children learn to participate, look forward to and find value in the experience of being together at church.
Now, children will do what children do best, be exquisitely full-embodied humans that push our boundaries. Beings that will wiggle, are messy and loud, and find ways to do things you could not have imagined doing in a sanctuary. Their parents know this will happen; they are taking a risk that their beloved children can feel valued, cared for, and safe with the people in our faith community. They are hoping the sanctuary, our faith community, is a place of welcome and a place their family can belong.
Our children begin their religious education each week in the sanctuary with us because the congregation is the first curriculum. It is in the sanctuary where they see us gather, light a chalice, speak words of purpose, listen to one another, celebrate new life, and remember those we mourn. Who we are, not what we try and teach, is what children will remember best. And if children feel treasured; loved even when sticky, smiled at even when loud, valued even when doing the unimaginable, they will know they belong in our church.
Hopefully someday, when they have grown and return to church as adults, it will feel like coming home. Returning to a safe place of belonging, with good people, their people, their sanctuary.
Welcome to a new church year and some new and returning classes for religious education! Please remember to register your children so we know who to expect! We look forward to seeing you all.
Robin Slaw, Director of Religious Education