Recently I’ve been hearing an uptick in chatter about our varying expectations about what noises — and noise levels — are appropriate in worship. It’s probably a good time to review the message about Children in Worship that was sent two years ago, on October 7, 2016. You’ll find its text here.
Here are some updates — including a plan for a special seating area for children! — and highlights about what, from my perspective, are the most important points of that 2016 message:
(1) Worship is for everyone, of all ages.
(2) Each of us has responsibility for one’s self — for moderating our own behavior, and for monitoring that of the children in our care — and for being mindful of how our behavior affects others. (Behavior = scolding looks; bodily movements; vocal noises; chastising words; etc.)
(3) If our children are going to learn that worship is for them, too, and that it is a uniquely reverent space and time, then they need all of us to model appropriate worship behavior for them — engaged participation, respectful listening, courtesy for those around us.
(4) Please be mindful of how your noise, and your children’s noise, is affecting those around you. If your family’s behavior is causing an ongoing distraction, then make adjustments — take a walk to the lobby; get a Soul Work packet to entertain the restless one(s); relocate to the chapel. (Gurgling, wiggling, occasional whispers (especially to better understand what’s being experienced in the service) — these are understandable and welcome! Conversations at full voice, extended chattering, squealing, inconsolability — probably best to relocate and regroup.)
Beginning this Sunday, September 23, we are going to experiment with something new. On the floor in front of the chancel, you will see pillows to designate a seating area for children who would like to be closer to the speakers and musicians. We expect that up front, our smaller members will be able to see and hear better, so that they can be more fully engaged in the worship experience. If your children would like to sit there, please remain close by so that you can monitor their behavior. If they choose not to sit on the pillows, then have them sit in chairs with you.
One of the great (and challenging!) beauties of cultivating community together is that we must practice living with people whose needs, expectations, and comforts differ from our own. And we must learn to value their perspective as much as we value our own.
Before policing someone else’s behavior, please try to imagine what their experience and challenges are, and respond (or resist!) with your most generous self. We must work together to cultivate the radically welcoming community that UUCC aspires to be.
So let’s be kind and compassionate, always leading with curiosity instead of judgment.