Our work as Church Relations Officers at Union Presbyterian Seminary keeps us busy on Sundays as if we were a full-time, parish pastors. The venue changes weekly, but we are challenged to bring God’s Word to a congregation with fresh perspective.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of preaching at Providence Forge Presbyterian Church near New Kent, Virginia, a short 40 minute drive outside of the city of Richmond. The church is pastored by a Union alum Rev. Steve Hodges.
I was struck by their unique involvement of the little humans present in the worship space. Like most Presbyterian congregations, the children were invited to the front of the sanctuary some time before my sermon in order to hear a word about God prior to being dismissed to their own form of “church”. This small congregation gathered 6 little faces on the front stage to hear a word about God’s love for them and for all others (the scripture lesson was from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
After a brief reflection on love and a time for prayer, Rev. Hodges remarked, “What time is it?” In response, the little ones shouted, “5 cents a meal!” and scurried after a small bunch of baskets near the podium. Each little one grabbed a basket and began to wander among the pews to collect spare change for the Presbyterian Hunger Program. When asked, Rev. Hodges commented, “They take as long as needed.” It was a beautiful witness to the importance of their participation in worship.
I was embarrassed that I had not stuck a few spare dollars in my robes before entering the worship space, for I wished to have been paid a visit by one of those darling faces. Who could deny a little cherub face, bowl cut and argyle sweater? It was wonderful to reflect on the impact of that small gesture for the life of the congregation and for the growing awareness of participating in God’s great mission as a child.
Does your worship service include the little ones in some significant manner? How so?
I remember being included in various ways in my childhood congregation, whether singing in the choir or serving as an acolyte. I find it so important to present messages of inclusion to children as we model God’s love for them.
So your kid has bed head and her dress is stained with jam from breakfast? Christ challenged us to bring forward the little children for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them (Matt. 19:14).
That jam-stained, bed-headed child exemplifies God’s great love for us, even in our mess. What a gift.
Nicole C. Ball
Church Relations Officer
Check out Providence Forge Presbyterian Church and the wonderful programs they run in the surrounding community.