If you spend most Sunday mornings removed from the main church service to be sat by yourself with your child, you are not alone.
You obviously are alone, playing with the hotchpotch assortment of toys that have accumulated at the back of church. But you are not alone- I am sat there too.
At 11am on most Sundays I am sat alone. When no other parents have managed to make it to church, I sit there, wondering why I bothered turning up in the first place. Couldn’t I just play with my child in the comfort of my own home? I’d have stayed in my pyjamas, shoved on CBeebies and had a cup of tea from my favourite mug. But instead, here we are, at church but not feeling at all part of Church.
Since having Miss F 3 ½ years ago, I have heard only a handful of sermons uninterrupted. I treasure the few times I can escape those side rooms and leave the girls in the care of kind church members. When I manage it, I sit through the Eucharist liturgy, tired, searching for rest.
But those Sundays are few and far between. The isolation is painful. Before I became a mother I was assured of my part of the church community- singing in the band, welcoming at the door, pouring tea at the end. Since having children I feel as though my presence wouldn’t be missed- I may as well have stayed in those pyjamas.
But despite the pain of turning up, I’ve found my new role as a parent has shown me the importance of regular church attendance.
For my children, church makes us make sense.
Let me explain.
Most people have something weird about them. A prominent nose, an odd hairline, funny shaped feet. These are all things that make us feel self-conscious. This self-consciousness is rarely worse than during adolescence. It’s something that even the most self assured teenager will feel. They are unable to shake off the feeling that compared to everyone else they are strange. There’s a lingering feeling of, “I’m a freak.”
But then family steps in. We begin to notice that every other person in the family is the proud owner of that prominent nose; even Uncle Dan who makes you laugh. When we are with our family we’re not a freak, we make sense.
Christian faith is a quirk. To outsiders it can seem strange and alien. It is certainly enough grounds for the school bully to label you a ‘freak’.
Raising a child is hard enough without the added quirk of a Christian faith. It’s inevitable that they will be labelled a ‘freak’. But if we raise our children within the Church family those strange Christian characteristics will be viewed in a different light. They will be seen as the genetic quirks that identify members of the family of God.
It is for this reason alone that I persevere through Sunday mornings negotiating two preschool aged children during a church service.
I could be doing it at home but if I want the Bible stories I read them before bed to make sense they need to see how our nuclear family fits within the wider Church family. Then they’ll see that they are not freaks full of quirks but owners of beautiful family traits.
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