Since we have moved to our new island, we’ve spent a fair number of Sundays, when we are not back at the old house or experiencing ailments like The Big Nasty, trying new churches.
This provides its own set of challenges because, among other things (like not allowing your husband to supervise the donning of the small people’s appropriate church apparel, even if it sounds like a good idea in the moment), you don’t always know what protocol is for your children during the service. Different churches, for instance, provide a separate children’s church for kids, and others churches keep children in the service with their parents. So each time we end up somewhere new, there’s this shuffling around that takes place as we figure out the practices and then determine if the small people want to stay with us or go to children’s church.
There are probably mothers who have found a smooth way to handle these things, but clearly I am not one of them. And the thing that makes this more difficult is that I am working my way though the shuffling in front of complete strangers.
In my home church, at the time, I thought it was the height of embarrassment when my younger son one Sunday, maybe three or four years ago, decided to get up in the middle of the children’s sermon, delivered at the very front of the church, mind you, and just walk around the platform exploring.
This, however, was later followed by his brilliant performance of “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” delivered with stellar voice projection and a roll on the floor, naturally, also during the children’s sermon delivered in the very front of the church.
As what you’d call a bonus if you are a glutton for punishment, lest anyone not hear him the first time, he repeated his declaration a second time, much to my complete and utter mortification.
The only saving grace in this, which I did not see until much, much later, was the fact that it least occurred in my home church, where people already knew us and where the people there have taught me the greatest part of what I now know about kindness.
At any rate, two weeks ago, we found ourselves at a church we’d attended twice before, I think, and one we quite like. Somehow, my younger son, who is currently waffling between attending children’s church and staying with us during the service, decided to stay this time and my daughter, who still usually attends children’s church, decided she wanted to stay too.
So there we were, with three kids between us, just hoping that no highly-inappropriate behavior would randomly erupt until after we were home again, in the confines of our own home.
I’ve mentioned my younger son is impulsive, and in his mind, the only reason for not saying whatever comes into his head, regardless of the topic, is because with certain things, he might get in trouble. He fails to see the offensive nature in just about anything. So we have prepped him repeatedly about keeping certain opinions to himself, like about, oh, say, how he’d can’t wait to get home again after church or how certain things about the service are less than riveting in his first-grade mind.
So there we were, wedged up against each other, when the sermon concluded and the minister announced that communion would follow. For the half-hour before this, my son had sat nearly comatose beside me, but when he heard this, he sat up and looked revived.
“Did they just say communion? Oh, good, that means church is almost over,” he said in his regular voice that I’m sure those immediately around us heard. Then, he instantly brought his hand to his mouth and now, with decidedly inconvenient timing, also remembered to whisper, “Oh, sorry, I forgot not to say that.”
Bless his little heart.
Then, this last week, we tried another new church and somehow found ourselves wedged in a large section of the church where we were the only ones under 65. Seriously, there was not another child in sight, and clearly these people took their church seriously, not at all in a negative way, but just in a very focused, very quiet way. Again, all three small people opted, at the very last minute no less, to remain with us throughout the service.
This stuff happens to me all the time.
Mid-sermon, baby-girl, normally very quiet when she does stay in church, turned to me and in a whisper so loud it defeated the point of whispering, said, “Okay, I think I’m ready to go home now.”
Now that you mention it so loudly, you and me both, baby-girl.
In the end, church hopping may, in fact, drive us to bar hopping.