If you read any blogs about church culture today, you hear over and over again how we have segregated out our age groups within the church. New church plants try to attract the elusive “young families,” urban congregations reach out to the “young singles” living in their revitalized downtowns, suburban mega-churches try to attract all ages through specified programs and worship services for each age group, and some traditional churches have forgotten what it’s like to have anyone under seventy years old in worship.
One of the strengths of our congregation is that we have all ages and stages of life represented in our community of faith. Our community coming together as one was no more evident than yesterday.
As worship began, our children and youth chimed in the beginning of worship and led us in the prelude. Then three of our elementary school children took baskets of palm crosses and passed them out in the opening hymn as we sang, “Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang!” Following our prayer of confession, four different children came forward to take colorful mixing bowls to collect change from the congregation for our monthly five-cents-a-meal offering.
After the sermon, our youth exited the sanctuary to begin hiding Easter eggs for our annual hunt that was to commence after worship. These youth, who as children themselves, benefitted from previous youth hiding eggs for them, now take their place as the hiders for a new generation of children.
As people spoke to me at the door, they told me how glad they were to hear our daughter Joanna’s “squeaks” during worship on her church debut as well as the occasional cry of the other babies and toddlers in the service. No one was concerned with being “distracted,” but they were grateful to have everyone present.
Following worship, people of all ages gathered in the fellowship hall for hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and cake. I always watch these gatherings, to see if everyone has someone to sit with and talk to them. I’m always working to make sure any visitors are not alone at a table. I needed to have no anxiety this week. I watched as new visitors were welcomed to tables of long-time members. I saw college students getting to know our senior adults and new young couples at tables with folks who could have been their grandparents. One of our members who is beginning a new Sunday school class in two weeks was going up to those newer to our congregation who may not participate yet in spiritual formation and was explaining what she was leading and how she hoped they could make it.
Then we moved outside, where the children took off hunting for eggs, with parents, youth, and other adults helping them find more carefully-hidden eggs. Other adults just watched with laughter and talked with one another in the sunshine.
In the back hallway one of our visitors, the mother of one of our members, said to me, “I just love how in this church you can see all the ages coming together.” It truly is a gift, a witness, I believe, to what God intends the kingdom of heaven to be like. I am grateful for all those who gather to worship and praise our risen Lord, and I hope anyone who is looking for a church family to nurture them from birth to the grave and all mixed up together might discover who we are as followers of Jesus as well.