Sunday, October 7, 2012
Sitting in Church
When I was a kid, my dad, mom, and the four of us kids sat in the fourth pew from the front on the left-hand side of the church. It was a small church, and our family of six took up the whole pew. I'm guessing we weren't allowed to bring any toys or books to pass the time during the sermon because we never had any that I can recall, though I do remember my mom playing "Intery, Mintery, Cutery Corn, Apple Seed and Apple Thorn" on my fingers, and when we were especially lucky, there was a little container of red hots, mini marshmallows, and raisins for us to nibble on. I think we were allowed to draw on the back of one offering envelope, or at least we didn't get in trouble unless we took more than one. I'm sure the idea was that we were supposed to learn to sit quietly and listen as soon as possible. But you know how it goes when you have four kids sitting right next to each other on a wooden pew in a quiet place for an hour--lots of giggling, squabbling, and whispering. I clearly remember the muffled sound my mother's gloved fingers made when she snapped them in our direction as a warning to quiet down. When our kids were growing up, we sat about two-thirds of the way back on side section on the right. Our family of five took up the whole row of the more modern padded interlocking sanctuary seats. Unlike my mom, I had a bag of quiet little toys I brought to keep their hands busy and sometimes a snack--plain cheerios when they were young and fruit snacks when they outgrew the cheerios. But like my mom, I expected them to learn to sit quietly as listen as soon as possible. When my oldest left for college, we were down to four in the row, then my second son left, and there were just three of us. Our church has three Sunday morning services, and we usually go to the one that starts at 11:10, and usually our oldest child meets us there and sits with us. But this morning, we went to the 10:00 service; our oldest was playing the piano for the music part of the service then helping with Sunday School. So there Steve and I were, just the two of us, sitting at one end of someone else's row. It's not the first time it's happened, but it still feels so weird and lonely to me. I remember seeing it happen to other couples over the years as their children grew up and moved on, and now we are one of those older couples sitting alone in church. I guess it's easier not having to pack a bag of toys and snacks anymore and it's nice being able to listen to the whole sermon without distraction. And I know it's one more thing I'll get used to in the years ahead. But today I missed my kids, and my siblings, and even the sound of my mother's muffled finger snapping while I was sitting in church.