“Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many…The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (I Corinthians 12:14, 21-27)
The idea is NOT to give children a place to play and distract the rest of the worshippers. The idea is to give younger children an age-appropriate place to pray and worship along with the rest of us, while continuing to learn how to be in church.
When you are small and young, sitting in the back of a church in an adult pew makes the altar and acolytes and preacher and choir seem miles away, IF you can even see them over the pew in front of you. And if you haven’t yet learned to read, those strange red prayer books in front of you are not much help, either.
We propose replacing the front two pews on the choir side with two shorter pews currently sitting in the hallway downstairs. Then purchasing a 7’x9’ rug, a child’s table and chairs, and other seating that will allow children to be close to the worship leaders. We will also have some quiet ways for children to prayerfully engage the liturgy: crayons and paper, a soft mass kit, some children’s bibles. Parents will be nearby, invited to sit in the adjacent pews.
Parents tell me it is hard to get young children to church, and that during the service they are so busy worrying that their children’s squirming or noise is distracting others that they cannot engage much with the service themselves. Instinct tells them to sit in the back where they can make a quick getaway if needed, but my experience has been that children can engage more if they are closer to the front, where they can see what is going on at the altar and in the choir. We hope that having a space where children can prayerfully engage in an age-appropriate way will also be beneficial to their parents’ own experience of worship.
The experience of other Episcopal churches that have tried this is that the children are better able to engage with worship, learn our traditions, and generate less noise after a period of adjustment. (To see an example of a similar space in action at Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, MN, and read about their experiences, go here: http://graceofav.org/prayground/)
We propose a six-month experiment starting with All Saints Sunday and going through Trinity Sunday. If the experiment shows us that this is not right for Holy Trinity, we’ll put things back over the summer. If it is successful, we will tweak it and have good information to give the group working on a master plan for the Nave.
Please prayerfully consider this proposal and contact or with any feedback.