Until this Sunday, church involved us leaving our kids with other people while we went off and were all godly. That’s changed now: Eli is old enough to sit in church with us.
More importantly, Eli is now old enough for Children’s Church.
A quick primer on Children’s Church. In our particular flavor of mainline Protestant Christianity, there’s a tradition of having the preschool children come to the front of the sanctuary to take part in a very short lesson before they’re bundled out of the sanctuary for their own time of instruction. In part this is because they are too young and full of energy to have learned to sleep through the sermon. It’s also because kids will say anything that pops into their heads, and in doing so provide the opportunity to laugh at the parents.
You know, I always enjoyed that last part until yesterday.
Eli did wonderfully through the first part of the service. He loves music, and the flute and oboe duet that served as the prelude held him rapt. I sat on the pew and held the hymnal while we sang hymns. He even stayed silent through the first congregational prayer.
Then it came time for Children’s Church.
I realized what I was in for when Eli marched up to the steps up to the sanctuary stage and, rather than sitting in front of the ministry intern who was teaching the lesson, sat down right beside her. That, of course, meant her lapel mic picked up everything he said.
“Today we’re going to talk about treasure,” the teacher began.
“Oh, I already know what that is,” Eli said, his tiny voice amplified into something much louder.
He kept up a running commentary throughout, only stopping after the lesson had ended and the teacher had prayed. “That praying time was much shorter than the first one,” he said as he hopped down and came back to sit by me.
We sang another hymn before he left the sanctuary for the full kids’ lesson. And as he marched back down the aisle and out of the sanctuary, I could see time marching in lock-step beside him, marking his passage into a new stage of childhood. He walked past a row of camp chairs that our church gives to new 7th graders when they join the youth group, and past the pile of rolled-up camp chairs that go with the graduating seniors who are headed off to college, and all I could think was, there is his future. It’ll be here tomorrow.