I've been hibernating far too long and have not spoken up about issues and events that concern me. I am not an activist, nor do I consider myself a leader, but on rare occasions, I have been thrust into those roles. However, I, like most mothers, am moved to action when it comes to my children and family. I and my husband were recently "dressed down" by a member of a church we visited some weeks ago when my son and his children were visiting us this summer. Our, son, as a minister, was invited to sit in the pulpit, while our two grandchildren sat with me and my husband in the pew. This week, "A Concerned Church Member" of that church sent an anonymous letter to my husband's business office which stated, in part:
"I saw you, wife and two precious grandchildren at church . . . I'm not sure if you noticed but they brought their little toys and gadgets with them to church. They both have to be over ten . . . and your grandson, for sure was at least 14. Your granddaughter was on her iPad and your grandson was drawing pictures all during church service, even prayer and preaching time . . . At one time your wife did try to have the little girl look at and pay attention to the praise dancers . . . which of course, she had no interest in. These are the children of a minister who happened to be sitting in the pulpit. They should know better. What kind of home training have they had? They weren't paying any kind of attention to the pastor which brings up my next question? What did they come for? To play games? They could have stayed home for that. Oh and you (Joe Hopkins) had the nerve to publish an article about Serena Williams and her attitude, referring back to her upbringing. The same can be said about your grandchildren . . . (Proverbs 22:6)".
Ouch! I realize that I and my family, for the most part, are sitting in a fish bowl. But I felt the sting of this person's criticism, judging me and my family, especially since it was sent in a cowardly way - no name, no phone number, no address, and no way I could contact him or her to explain, question, or even apologize. They obviously were so distracted by the grandchildren that they could not focus on the church service. I'm not trying to ignore their behavior, and I fully understand and agree that children must be taught how to behave in church. I will never, ever forget my experience as a little girl of 8 or 9 years old who was made to sit on the front row of my cousin's church. While he was preaching he would stop and fuss at me and my little (adopted) sister for not sitting still and paying attention. I had no understanding what he was screaming about from the pulpit of that little holiness church. I know that children in church can be disturbing to adults, from babies on up. That's why many churches have a Children's Church. They realize that children have a very short attention span and do not understand the preached word, and need to be taught differently from grown folks.
Of my understanding, from the child's point of view, I feel reasonably satisfied if children in church can sit still and play with something, quietly. It's what many grown-ups who are tolerant of children allow them to do. I have always admired mothers of young children who come to church prepared with small toys and dry snacks for the children, so both the child and the mother can reasonably enjoy the church experience, without having to take them out or, God forbid, leave them at home where they won't have experience of church at all. That's the problem with many children walking the streets today - they have absolutely no church experience. Reasonable adults do not expect that children will sit up and pay attention to the preacher or anyone else in pulpit, at least not for long.
In my case, my granddaughter, who is 9, was playing on her Kindle, and my grandson, who is 13 and quite the budding artist receiving awards for his artwork, was sketching a picture of his dad who was sitting in the pulpit. I brought the praise dancers to my granddaughter's attention because she is a praise dancer at her church. But I assumed her lack of interest was because the dancers were grown women and not little girls. Lastly, I would like to share the view of the pastor at the church I belong to. To my great surprise, one Sunday, he announced to the congregation that it was okay for us to use our cell phones and electronic devices in church. He said we could be looking up references to what was being preached. He also reminded us that the Bible is now online.
I'm learning . . . the times are changing and us older folks can go along or be dragged, along!
Matthew 19:14 . . . "But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."