From the mouths of babes

I love it when babies cry during our worship. There is no sound that makes me happier than when babies add their voices to our communal worship—and I think you should like it, too.

Erik Walker Wikstrom, who serves as the minister of our congregation in Charlottesville, Virginia, tackled the topic this week on his blog, asking what we should do about babies crying in worship. I don’t want to speak for him, but I think he comes down on the side of us welcoming families in and changing our expectations of what worship should be like:

There are not too many places where you can go with your child and know that she or he will be allowed to be what they are—a sometimes noisy, often squirmy, always miraculous child. (So many places in mainstream US culture seem to expect children to behave as if they were miniature adults. They’re not.) Shouldn’t our faith community be one such haven?

Yes, Erik, it should. I love it when babies cry not because I like the sound of the crying (who does?) but because of what it tells me. Remember what you’re doing, Christian, those babies say. Remember that this worship is about all of us, and more than any of us. We can’t even understand your words, but we need you to know that this matters. Or perhaps I’m just romanticizing the screams and screeches—I imagine this sort of feeling is growing stronger in me as my wife and I expect our first child in a few months.

That’s not to say I expect one of our six-month-olds to step up into the pulpit and share wisdom, either. But babies have something to teach us. Our sanctuaries are not places to escape from those things that annoy us, but rather to welcome in all people to our community. That means welcoming parents of young children, and it also means welcoming the children. I hope we can open our communities to our youngest members as we would have them open to us.


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