On Sunday, September 11, I went to church.
It was a regular Sunday morning communion service, although, because it was 9/11, I had more time for praying and singing, and slightly less time for preaching than usual. The children's message featured a cloth globe that I passed around to the children, so that we could all hold the world in our hands, and pray for the world. As well, each bulletin had a colorful cardboard hand. During the prayers, everyone was encouraged to write their name on a hand, to think about how they could be an instrument of God's peace, and then put the hand in the offering plate.
We are still thinking about what to do with those hands. Should we make a collage? Should we fasten them all on a ribbon and hang them up around the church? More creative minds than mine could think of many more ideas.
The choir sang for the first time on Sunday, a gospel song called, "Lord, Have Mercy." I always run up to the balcony to sing with the choir, and then back down to preside at communion. The ushers usually follow me with the offering plates. Today they were filled with these colorful hands.
But on Sunday something else happened. One of the ushers decided to give the offering plates to her two year old great-nephew. They walked together down the center aisle, just behind me. When I turned around there he was, standing there gravely. I stooped down to take the two plates from him.
I turned to the usher and said, "Thank you. that was wonderful. I want more of that."
More of that. I don't just want to see the children in church; I want them to know that they belong in church, that they are an important part of the body of Christ, that we are poorer if they are absent. I want them to light the candles, read the lessons, share the peace, carry the offering baskets, help with communion, do things I haven't imagined.
I want more of that. I am not exactly sure why I said it, or said it like that. Maybe it was just seeing him get to do something I never got to do, when I was small, even though I was there every. single. Sunday. Maybe it is because I believe that children learn not just from sitting around tables in Sunday School, but from sitting next to their parents in worship, carrying offering plates, packing socks for homeless people. Learning to be Christian is not just head knowledge, but whole body knowledge, and we learn it from one another, not just listening but doing and being. Or maybe it was this, even: a flash of a vision. A little child shall lead them. The lion shall lie down with the lamb. This is what the kingdom of Heaven looks like. All of us together. All of us playing a part.
I know that's not the current wisdom. The current wisdom says to separate us into different learning groups, different worship styles, different ages. Have Children's Church and the Hip Service for teenagers and the Baby Boomer Service, and the one that the Greatest Generation goes to. We are all different, after all. We speak different languages. We need different things.
But the truth is, that what we need more than anything else is one another. We need one another to grow up into Christ, and we need one another to do the mission to which he has called us: to love and heal the world.
People ask me what my vision for the church is. It is a two year old carrying the offering plates. It is the 4 year old who closes his eyes whenever I give him a blessing. It is the two 5th graders who sing the songs during Lent at the top of their lungs. It is all of these colorful hands, each of them pledging to be instruments of God's peace. And knowing that we can't do it alone. We need each other, not just for that hour on Sunday morning, but we need each other to share the peace of God in the world.
Because we all need more of THAT.