I went to Great Vespers tonight at an Orthodox Christian church. The kids at this church are not sent off to childrens’ church. They are just as much a part of the service as are the adults. One little girl was particularly busy. She was teaching her dolly how to be a Christian. She took it around and had it kiss the icons and the toes of the saints on the walls- too cute! She mimicked everything the adults did (as do I since I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time at an orthodox church), and made sure her doll could see everything. That little girl looked about 3-4ish. Another older girl, maybe a year older, came over and they got busy making sure that doll was taken care of! They laid her down for a nap and covered her up with a head covering. Did they pay attention to the service? No. Were they quiet? Mostly. They are young. I would not expect a small child to be able to hold still through an entire service. I can’t even do that. However, through all their ‘busyness’ something is sinking in, at least it was clear when observing the younger one as she busied herself teaching what SHE had learned to her doll.
The next child to catch my eye was an adorable, chubby-fisted 3yo boy. I noticed him because he was carrying a lit candle by himself. His mother was near by, but he was being independent. He carried his candle proudly, and with what I can only describe as reverence, over to the spot where the sand filled box, into which had been thrust other candles, sat ready to receive his offering. His mother had to help him place the candle in the sand, but for the most part, he was in charge of that candle and he took his responsibility serious. Yes, I believe children can be reverent even if they do not know what it means to be so, or the very word exists.
Now, even though these children were learning what is means to be an Orthodox Christian, they are still children. As I mentioned earlier, the girls were playing with the doll. I saw the little boy log roll himself across the carpet. His mom motioned for him to come back. I’m sure she expected him to stand up and walk to her, I know I did. I had to cover my mouth to muffle my chuckle as I saw him roll back toward her. Kids!
Seeing these children in this church proves that children can be taught how to be quiet in church. They were still kids. They were still busy little bees, but hey, they are kids. Not mini adults. If we place the right expectations before them, kids stretch to meet those expectations. They may not be able to sit still for an hour, but they can learn how to play quietly, and learn what it means to be a Christian.
Proverbs 22:6King James Version (KJV)
6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.