I'm a pastor. I wear the funny shirt, the robe, the stoles. I say the P parts of the liturgy. I sit up front. And I love it.
But one thing I don't love so much is that I no longer sit alongside my wife and children in worship. Before I was ordained, I loved worshiping with my children. Yet I no longer worship alongside them, hold worship books for them, whisper instructions to them, or help them with their Bible story coloring sheet. I do enjoy seeing their faces as they worship from my seat up front, and I cherish the opportunity to declare the forgiveness of their sins, and to place the sacrament in their hands. But still … I'm no longer there, by their side, holding them, whispering to them, coloring with them.
Tonight I received a special gift as I attended my wife's cousin's wedding (yes, a wedding scheduled on the Monday after Christmas!). There we were, Mommy, Daddy, and our two daughters sitting in the pew together (Naaman, our two year-old son, was more than glad to romp around in the nursery. We were more than glad to let him!). I held my 3 year-old up high so she could see the pastor's gestures as he said the Words of Institution. I took her to the bathroom during the Prayers of the Church. I struggled to hold a hymnal as I held her in my arms. Yes, by doing these things, I wasn't tuned into every moment of the liturgy. But I was participating and praying with my children, gathering with them around the table and at the foot of the cross, held with them within the Body of Christ and surrounded by the sights and sounds of God's people at worship. It was a beautiful thing.
And so tonight I am grateful for this wonderful Christmas gift – the gift to worship as a family. I wouldn't give up my job for anything. I love what I do. But I also love when I get the chance to worship alongside my wife and children. Thank you, Ben and Marissa, for getting married this evening. You've given me a wonderful gift!
Blessings to Ben and Marissa, and to all in this Christmas season.
4 thoughts on “The Gift of Worshiping with my Family”
Great. And may you have a Happy New Year.
I know what you mean…I miss sitting next to my wife in worship as well. Coming up this Sunday I am on vacation so I will enjoy this rare opportunity to worship with Connie. But like you, I would not give this job up for anything. God bless and have a very happy and blessed New Year.
Ahh, but one day your children will be acolytes like my daughters, and then you can sing hymns with your arm around them, hold their hand during the prayers and listen to the choir’s anthem together sharing a private moment of grace behind the pulpit. Our job does have its perks!
I was an ELCA pastor for 14 years until the last 3.5 years when I’ve been on leave and then off the roster. During that time I’ve worshiped with my family and wouldn’t trade these years of sitting (I use the word “sitting” loosely) in the pew with my children for anything. It’s given me a special concern for the inclusivity of children, which I think is radically lacking in most expressions of our worship and church life (how much kid-oriented food and drink are served at your “coffee hour?”). Children are still mostly required to be seen and not heard. But now I have more insight into the unique gifts of children, and we adults need their witness no less than they need ours. Their wiggling, squealing, unexpected outbursts (of joy and agony), their expression of boredom, their need to see, move, taste; all of this is a gift that should be embraced rather than shooed away. All pastors – regardless of whether they have children – should be required to sit in the pews more often!
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