Here's a door, unpacked from my camera. I'm now trying to paint it in watercolour. I want to include some children, but finding this hard.
Doors are powerful symbols. They've always fascinated me, as I've mentioned in a previous post here and also here.
This door, the 'Door of Humility' is the entrance to the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. I took this photo while listening to our guide Ghassan (a Palestinian Christian) explaining why the current entrance is so small, though the former were huge. His gentle words still ring in my mind,
"now only a young child may enter freely - like the baby of Bethlehem".Then we entered stooping, as most adults have to if you want to avoid a painful encounter with the stone lintel. I thought later about Jesus' words before he took children in his arms and blessed them,
"...whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." Mark 10: 15.Why then, do we Christians, in some places, think that when children come to church they should be hidden in a sound-proof creche or a church hall that's far less beautiful and conducive to worship than where the adults are? And meanwhile, at one of the oldest continuously operating Christian churches in the world, only young children may enter easily. Adults have difficulty. What irony.
Earlier today I reacted joyfully to a colleaguue's post about children in church. Not everyone will agree with him but I think he's right. Recent celebration of 'All Saints' and 'All Souls' should remind us that the saints are not limited to those old enough or controlled enough to be quiet and still in church. Here's some of what David wrote at 'The Vernacular Curate'
"...the saints-living are all of us, whether we are 80 or 8 days old. My house is my children's house and they will be at home here. God's house is his children's house and that refers to all his children. They make noise and ALLELUIA. There is nothing more beautiful, stunning and hopeful than the noise of kids relaxing in church during a service. The babbling of babies, the stomping of toddlers, the raging of tantrums - they are all sounds of life and to Tippex them out in favour of one's own need to pray one's own needs in public is just not acceptable to me. I come from a very ceremonially-centred style of worship, and I am delighted to report that my own children love to come to church - why? Because no-one ever told them to be quiet."As David acknowledges, there are those who object to children in church because they say they come to church "to be with God". I've met people like that, not least when our own children were small and in church with us. A frown or even audible 'tut-tut' can be hurtul and is all it takes to stop some parents from bothering to come again, just when they could most do with support from friendly adults.
Where exactly, do the people who think children should be neither seen nor heard in church think God is? Obviously not in the Baby of Bethlehem who would have cried noisily like any other child. The words in 'Away in a Manger' that say "...little Lord Jesus no crying he makes" are an unrealistic fantasy. But, they still made me shed sentimental tears when we sang it in Bethlehem in October!
Image: my own