In the Spirit The Rev. Clifton Barlow
Newburyport Daily News
---- — Reconnecting with a retired Methodist minister colleague recently, we stumbled upon the topic of children’s stories during worship. Basically, it is a time when the children present come forward to sit with an adult (usually the clergy) to hear a short lesson of some type aimed at their level. Many adults have been heard to say that they get more out of the children’s story than they do from the sermon.
My friend and I found ourselves on the opposite side of a divide that could not be brooked. He feels that a children’s story has no place in worship. For him, it is a poorly done show-and-tell parading the children to look cute for the entertainment of the adults present. Any teaching or learning value is minimal.
I begged to differ. Yes, children’s stories can be all of the above. Yet, they do not have to be. I have found my practice of calling the children forward to be with me at the front of the sanctuary to be a rewarding experience for all concerned. Each Sunday the children come running up to sit on the floor, and gaze up at me with expectant faces. It is their special time with me.
I always bring to this time some point that I hope to make, or lesson that I hope to stress. But I always “hang loose,” allowing the children to respond — allowing the Holy Spirit to take this moment together where It will.
Case in point: One Sunday, I brought a picture of the house where I live. There are a number of fruit trees in the yard. There is also a side porch where I like to sit out on a summer eve. I told the children all of this. Then I told them how I was frustrated and upset because one of the trees next to the porch had little green bugs on it that had gotten all over the porch. The tree has been sprayed three times, but the little green bugs were winning. In the meantime. I had not been able to sit on the porch.
Where I was going with this story was to talk about how we handle times of frustration and stress when faced with situations over which we have no control and which we cannot change. My punch line was to be that my wife told me to calm down and to go sit on the front porch instead.
Expressing my dilemma, I asked the children what I should do. One 5-year-old girl with bright eyes, who had been listening intently, raised her hand. With a big grin on her face she said, “Just go inside and relax.” End of story.
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise.” Matthew 21:16
Rev. Clinton Barlow is the permanent interim minister of the Millbury Baptist Church in Millbury and a friend of this column’s coordinator. He may be reached at email@example.com.