One of the things I like about being a Methodist is that our services tend to be right about an hour long. And unlike some other religions, we have them on Sunday mornings. Not Saturday nights, not in the middle of the week; there is not an expectation that one must attend endless hours of religious training every week or somehow be lacking. One hour. Totally doable.
Now before I’m pegged for the heathen that I am, I’ll also point out that there are myriad opportunities (at least in my church) for further fellowship and study, and I avail myself of these activities quite often. I consider myself to be very involved with my congregation. It’s not that I don’t want to give more time to my church family. It’s that my church family seems to genuinely like me and I’d like to keep it that way. And the Sunday morning thing? Includes the children.
I love my children. Heck, I adore my children. I love them and hug them and squeeze them and call them embarrassing goofy little names and pretend to eat their feet even when those feet smell like sweaty socks. But my children are only going to sit quietly in rapture for an hour or more if Disney animation is involved. So that peaceful, calm feeling that washes over me when I attend worship on my own? Is not so much a part of our family Sundays.
During the “regular season” (which is basically the school year), the children attend the first 15-20 minutes of worship, and then right after the children’s sermon, they leave for Junior Church. It’s lovely. That’s just enough time for me to gaze adoringly at them from the choir loft, make some really severe faces and “cut it out right now” hand gestures, and remind Chickadee to actually take Monkey with her to Junior Church. It’s perfect, really.
Today? Was the last day of our summer season. There was no Junior Church. Choir won’t be singing until next week, so I had to sit with the kids. And our pastor has returned from sabbatical, which is wonderful, but all summer long we’ve had guest leaders who have all been uniform in their brevity. Our regular pastor is incredible, but no one is ever going to accuse him of being a man of few words. Then add into the mix the fact that today was Communion Sunday. And to top it all off, there was a baptism.
It was a loooooooooong service.
The kids picked up junior bulletins and about six thousand crayons on our way in. Chickadee then selected what turned out to be the only pew with a large enough crack between the seat and the back for crayons to fit through. Color color color PLINK color color PLINK PLINK color color “hey I can’t find the blue crayon!” “It’s on the floor, pick those up, and shhhhh.” Monkey then scrambled around on the floor grabbing crayons while the pew of little old ladies behind us cooed over Chickadee, commenting on how well-behaved she was being. Chickadee responded to this praise by kicking her brother in the head as he was on his way back up.
First hymn: balance hymn book on Chickadee’s head with one hand while using the other to hold a snuffling Monkey who has shimmied up my side, bringing half my hemline with him. Excellent.
Baptism: “Looka the baby, Mama! Look at him! BABY! Look over here! BABY!”
Children’s sermon: Chickadee hovered dangerously close to the altar candles, while Monkey piped up with periodic repetition of the pastor’s tale as if he was on perpetual time delay.
Scripture reading: “Dear, would they like these?” kindly offered the woman right behind us, holding out a couple of Dum-Dum lollipops as I litigated another episode of Crayongate. “Bless you!” I gasped as I grabbed for them. Monkey settled to unwrapping, while Chickadee held hers tightly and declared she wanted to save it for later. Mentally adding it to the list of Things I Never Thought I’d Find Myself Saying, I leaned over and whispered to my eldest, “You are going to unwrap that lollipop right now and put it in your mouth and suck on it slowly and not say a single word until it’s gone.” Wide-eyed, she obeyed.
Communion: “Body of Christ, broken for you.” “MAMA! I want some-a-dat bread!”
Sermon: “Is it time to go?” “Now is it time to go?” “When will it be time to go?”
One hour and twenty-seven minutes later, we narrowly escaped… me with the remaining shreds of my sanity, them with their hides intact (if a little sticky from the lollies). “They’re so darling… and so active!” all the ladies noted as I gathered up papers and crayons. I just smiled and told Monkey to put his shoes back on.