Friday, January 13, 2006

The Circle of Life at Church

Last night I was musing about all the new babies at church, thinking about their scrunchy little faces opening up over their first few months, like blossoms forming from buds, changing from newborn to chubby pink or olive or brown cherubs. And from there started to think about their parents, sleep-deprived for sure, but drawn into the circle of the church in a way that they hadn't been previously, when they were teens, young 20s, newly married.

There's something about babies, and the having of them, that draws a couple deeper into the fold of the church, especially by the female participants -- those moms with older kids, or the middle-aged women with their teen children, or the old women with middle aged children. It's definitely a rite of passage.

I'm thinking particularly of Heather, who is shy, pretty in an understated way, and her 2-month old baby. Before his birth, she was a member on the periphery, partly because of her -- and her husband's -- shyness. But now this baby, which gets taken from her at coffee hour and passed around, has become the focus. It's drawn her out and into the bosom of the women of the church. She will go through the whole process as we all did -- being a part of the Sunday School, getting to know the other mothers, maybe teaching Sunday School as well, fretting about our teenagers lives in the current cultural whirlpool, watching as they get married, have their own babies, then sliding into old age.

The fact that children create a thread of continuity in parish life is a good thing, but it also brings painfully to mind that ignored part of our church, those who have no children. What to do about those who remain at the edge of the community, how to draw them in? It is true a community needs focus in order to be such, and there are subsets at every church that have their focus -- missions, Sunday School, parish dinner organizers, etc.

I have no answers for this one.