The Sunday comics included a “Family Circus” cartoon featuring mom, dad, grandma, and four small children sitting in church. The children, all squirming, had a lot to say: “If we have to whisper, why is that man up there talking so loud?”; “Does the man who passed the basket get to keep all the money?”; “If God is everywhere whey do we hafta come to church to talk to him?” There were a few more, but you get the idea. It was supposed to evoke a smile, maybe even a chuckle.
It didn’t. It was a sad commentary on several fronts. If church is worth going to at all, it’s worth going for communion with God, for renewal, solace, and strength. It’s worth going for confession, repentance, and amendment of life. It’s worth going to learn and practice what fullness of life in abundance means, whatever one’s condition in life. In other words, it’s worth more than going a few times a year out of social obligation.
Children who grow up in church, yes, in church at the main service with the adults, absorb the rituals, customs, words and meanings as quickly as they learn colors, numbers, and their ABCs. And when they sit up front, they are entertained by all the drama, color, and movement going on in front of them. If they squirm, or make a few noises, so what? It’s better than sitting in the back staring at the backs of adults, hearing indecipherable noises coming from a loudspeaker.
Moreover, the man up front may well be a woman. The man who passes the basket may well be a child. Rather than little Billy asking why we “hafta come to church to talk to him?”, little Billy’s family would be in the habit of talking to him daily, with weekly worship at church in the community of others as a special gift. Indeed, little Billy might not be in the pew at all, but up near the altar helping the priest or pastor lead worship.