Church of the Servant

(I’ve realized I’m not keeping up with my “churches” series because I can’t fully encapsulate everything I learned at a particular church in one post. So, from here on out, just a little something…)

Church of the Servant (COS) is a church I’ve been part of twice in my life: I was baptized there as a baby while my dad was in seminary; and it was my church during my own years at seminary.

I love many things about it (for instance, I think it might be the most beautiful space I ever worshiped in regularly).

But one of my best memories of it has to do with children. I remember a Sunday when one little guy “escaped” from his family, charged front and center, and slid under the expansive communion table. One of the high school kids (unrelated to this little guy) went after him, but the escapee was wily–he rolled around back and forth under the table, avoiding capture.

I loved this moment because the whole congregation took it so easily, and it said so many beautiful things about their worship. They could let something unexpected happen and take it as a blessing. They viewed the communion table as a place of joy. They valued the presence of children in worship. And, what a wonderful thing, to see someone truly taking refuge under the table, viewing it as a safe space, and helping us all to worship by laughing.

This was a church where moms routinely nursed babies during the service, where parents felt free to take kids to a nursery or keep them nearby, where kids owned the sanctuary as their space, too.

What got me thinking about this was this post about a pastor-mom and her daughter during worship. I have not taken Zora with me into worship, in part because I know myself, and I know that I would have a hard time concentrating on leading with her there. And I think this is a deeply personal choice for parent-pastors. Zora’s got a good thing going if she can sit with dad in worship (or, the last few weeks, attend a service with grandma and grandpa, albeit at a different church). And different churches have different needs. For example, when I was at a church where there were emergency-disaster directions under the pastors’ seat, I’m not sure that would have been a great setting in which to sling on a toddler.

But I wonder–would I dare? I don’t know that the congregation I’m with now would react well. Shoot, I don’t know how COS would react!

Maybe, someday, Zora will make that decision for the congregation. I think she is already showing the type of temperament that might move her to run to the front and made a dash for mama’s lap. We’ll see…

3 Responses to “Church of the Servant”

  1. Mary Beth Says:

    I never did it, although as I was getting ready for the Ash Wednesday service he fell fast asleep while attached to me via Mobywrap. I seriously considered keeping him there and knew the congregation wouldn’t mind if he woke up and needed to be passed off to dad, but I decided against it. He is definitely not of the temperament to be anything but squirmy and distracting.

    The congregation that I served loved babies, but didn’t do so well with toddlers/children. As long as they were cute to look at it was fine. Once they started acting like beings with free will then they weren’t so welcome. My congregation actually wanted to post “rules of conduct” outside the sanctuary because they were so angry with one young family who had difficulty keeping their toddler still and quiet. He was known to make his way to the altar at times and they were scared to death he might touch the creche! Gasp! One time he made his dash to the front during our final hymn. I scooped him up, sang with him in my arms, gave the benediction with him, and carried him back down the aisle for the recessional. I hoped that would model appropriate behavior and attitudes towards children in worship. It didn’t. And the congregation is surprised it can’t attract young families!

  2. ppb Says:

    I remember worshipping at Ghost Ranch one time when a toddler sprang loose. There was nothing to break or anything like that, but it in a big outdoor space, i’m sure mom and dad were worried about losing him.
    Anyway, the preacher scooped him up, and passed him off to someone, who passed hime to someone who passed him to someone—-the kid thought it was the greatest game in the world–pass the toddler. Eventually the person he was passed to claimed him. I loved it.

  3. Lauren Says:

    Erica,

    I just happened upon your blog, and this post stuck out at me. My grandma attends COS (Madeline Van Goor), but the only time I have been there was for my Grandpa’s funeral last November. What a strange feeling to scroll down your blog to be struck by the picture of that sanctuary which holds such mixed emotions for me! I don’t know anything about the church itself, but it was the place I said goobye to gramps so thanks for the glimpse of it again and for the moment of reflection it enabled me to linger in, if only for a moment.

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