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.