One of the things I told people when I was starting this blog was that it would hopefully be a good tool for current Orthodox priests and people who are wondering what in the world is going on in the minds of their catechism/converts. Here's one of those posts. Touchy subject for some, not so much for others: kids in church.
To give you some background, in all of my Protestant upbringing I never experienced the opposition to children in church during the service that I did in our last Protestant church. People actually told us afterwards, that having the baby in church was distracting and keeping them from worship. A hard case to make, but also hard to argue in a church where a "good" worship service includes this nebulous "presence of the Spirit" they all talk about. This isn't a gripe session. Just context.
One of the things I've appreciated about the Orthodox churches we've visited is the stress they put on children (at every age) being present in the service. "This is where they catch the Spirit" a priest once told me. In general, the attitude is really good towards both of our girls. Everyone loves the baby (she's adorable and sleepy). Everyone loves the other one (she's a spitfire and says "amen" and "mama" and "cross" and "bell" and "Jesus" at every minute of quiet in the service). It's just hard being the Dad in this scenario.
Whether or not we're actually being disruptive, I feel like we are. It's hard to find the balance where the little girl is able to be quiet (or just a little noisy) and not keeping people from paying attention to the service. No one has ever said anything to us at either of our parishes. It's still hard--in that moment--to be okay with my little girl's noises (whichever girl) and understand that it's not up to me (or them) to ensure that someone else has a "good time" in church.
So if you see a dad (or mom) with a little girl (or boy) who may be making a little too much noise, don't shoot them glares across the church. Don't just ignore them, either. Be a helper. Let them know how much you appreciate their presence in the service and the joy their noises bring. Remember the children in the temple when Our Lord had entered in on the donkey. They were shouting, praising, singing. The priests and religious people were all grumpy and "religious" about it and told Him to tell the kids to keep it down. Jesus' response was very pointed and very clear: No. I'm trying. I know that you're trying to pray and worship, too. Please remember that those moms and dads (especially the catechumens and converts) are painfully aware of the noise their children are making and wishing they could make things easier for you. Be loving and patient, pay attention to the service, and offer your assistance to those young families who are trying to enter the Church, and feel like they may have a long row to hoe with their little ones in tow.