Being spoiled


Standing at the front of the sanctuary, feeling the Spirit, ready to do the benediction, a shriek rings out from among the congregation. Only I look to see who it is – because I know the voice. It is my daughter, Eden. At all of a year old, hearing my voice causes her to let out a squeal.

I watch for a moment, distracted, as she tries to wiggle out of the nursery worker’s arms. And then I begin, “Now as you go…” But before I can get to any amount of peace, I notice that is crawling down the aisle, trying to reach me. Unsure what to do, the nursery worker wrestles her to the ground. “May you go in peace,” I continue. Finishing the benediction, I begin to process towards my daughter. Forget the acolyte; forget the lay reader.

Just as I get close enough to hold her, a hand reaches out to grab me. “Pastor,” the older, grouchy woman begins, “you know, we would not care if she crawled down the aisle.”

I pop my one year old on my hip and she begins slobbering all over my newly dry cleaned robe. We say good bye to the congregation. She gives kisses to each of the members of the congregation, a congregation whose average age is 63. As the last member leaves I begin to reflect on this woman’s comment.

A year ago, that would not have been true. When I first came to the congregation the pews were full of grouchy men and women. If a young family happened to come through the door and if their child happened to squeal, dirty looks would fly at them from every direction. Dirty whispers would fill the sanctuary as mothers of generations past would comment about how their children would never dare to crawl under pews.

But in a year something changed. And I am blessed to say that my daughter had something to do with it. She has become the grandbaby of the church. When she goes to Daddy’s church, my congregation misses her. Every week they ask about her. Stories about Eden the most beloved stories from the pulpit, sometimes even more than the Bible stories. Each week hand-me-downs, gifts found at the dollar store, and candy are brought to share with her. Sufficient to say that at one, the church community has spoiled her.

But I guess she has spoiled them. With cute winks and slobber filled kisses, she has spoiled them. She loves each and every one of them, giving most of them more attention then they get from their actual grandchildren. She has taught them that the church is not a building. As simple as that sounds, and as often as the finger play has been taught, it is a new concept at our church. For the pew have always been more important then the people in them. But something has changed. Something has changed, by the grace of God, through the love of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, ushered in my daughter. And it brings me to my knees.

4 replies
  1. Heather
    Heather says:

    My daughter is now nine, but we went through this, too. It did make leaving the church she had spent her entire 8 years in really hard.
    But I also wanted to share a story. When she was 19 months old, someone stole the baby Jesus from the nativity scene on our front yard. (She was the one who noticed first. Ran outside, pointed and yelled, “No Baby Jesus!”) The local paper did a story on it; included a cute photo of her and me (in collar). The next Sunday a new family with a toddler and a preschooler came to church for the first time: “We had been thinking about coming back to church for the kids, and then we saw your picture in the paper, and we figured we’d come here because if they acted out, at least we figured you’d understand.”

  2. Katie H
    Katie H says:

    We can’t keep the baby Jesus in any of our nativity sets – it seems some child is always wanting to put him in his/her pocket and take him home. I can relate to the feeling.
    My 4 year old son loves being such a center of attention, but hates when other children want to be close to me. I try to strike a balance in being a Reverend Mama.

  3. HH
    HH says:

    I have two sons (3, 1 1/2) who elicit the same warm feelings. I am a full-time pastor whose husband is not, so he is the pewsitter and boy-wrangler each Sunday. Most of the time, it’s fine. But every once in a while…
    I hoped one fringe benefit of having children (I served here 7 years before kids) is that it would transform the congregation into more kid-friendly in general…but I can’t say that it has. Yet the boys seem to sniff out the grouchy members and focus on them! Hilarious, and often effective!
    According to most of the congregation, MY kids are great, and when THEY act out it’s cute (ugh) but anyone else’s kids…let’s just say they don’t get quite the same grace. I am speaking only of the worship times, not regular community life.
    But it has transformed MY relationships with parents (and some grandparents) in the congregation for sure. And it has made ME a more grace-filled worshiper when there are distractions. I think it has allowed some of the kids (school age and even teenagers) to see me as a more-friendly, accessible, mom-type…and I’m OK with that. It has also made me more vulnerable to my congregation, as we drag a screaming child out the doors toward home…less perfect, more real.


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