I love scanning the faces of Heritage members on Sunday morning, albeit on my computer screen, using the arrows to see every one of the video feeds. It’s a small yet important ritual that helps me feel connected to each and every one of you.
And every Sunday I have the same question — but where are the children?
I know that sitting in front of a computer screen is hard enough for adults and youth, and younger children have even more difficulty relating to things happening through a screen.
But ritual and continuity are important. Attending online church, even just for the chalice lighting or the benediction, help to ground our children in the sacred, beloved community that is Heritage UU Church. This can be especially important during the pandemic.
During this time of instability and losses of all types, I encourage parents to consider how bringing their children “into the room” on Sunday mornings might be of benefit. Attending church as a family gives young people something that they can hold onto amid ever-changing decisions about how we can be in community. It provides stability during a time of loss. And it provides a peaceful structure for the family to be all together.
Being at Heritage worship nurtures the sense of belonging to a faith community in your children. When they are present for worship, they are developing touchstones, just as adults do. They are seeing familiar faces, learning the narratives of our faith, and developing their sense of connection to the power of love, which some will call God.
Our worship committee is continually seeking out ways to include elements of worship specifically designed to engage people of all ages, and our new Family Chapel can help children relate to each other. Still, in our regular Sunday morning worship service, all the familiar segments — lighting our chalice, singing hymns, reciting our covenant, sharing Candles of Community — evoke memories in us and in our children. Consider bringing your children into the room, even if just for short parts of the service. Don’t worry if they happen to be a bit squirmy. Have them bring coloring pages, a snack, or a favorite toy. And don’t worry if they don’t appear to be paying attention. Children will get what they need from worship to help them get through the rest of the week, even if they never even glance at the computer screen.
When we gather on Sunday mornings, it helps us all to know that however long this is, however hard this gets, that we, together as a community, will make it through. Even if younger children are bringing in their toys and coloring pages, we hope that they will get the message that at this moment, all of us are held and loved.