April 13, 2006
A joyful noise
Calvary Lutheran Church of Angola, Ind., shares a lot with the typical ELCA congregation. About 140 people worship there at two services each Sunday. Some 30 names grace the prayer page. The congregation needs two members willing to serve as delegates to the Indiana Kentucky Synod Assembly this June in Indianapolis.
And on Palm Sunday, the faithful gathered in the narthex for a procession into the cozy and comfortable sanctuary. The crowd at the 10:30 a.m. service, while including a full range of ages, at first blush appeared to be dominated by older folks, primarily women.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. On the contrary, most nodded and smiled at the two visitors in their midst. Like everyone else, they marched into the church and found their seats. My wife and I joined in and deliberately sat in the pew in front of one of the younger couples and their two toddlers.
The pair was very well behaved throughout the hour and a half service. The occasional bump of a little head against the back of the wooden pew brought a cry or two, but nothing that couldn’t be soothed with a treat, its offering made known by the telltale crackle of a plastic wrapper being opened.
Then the awaking: the congregation’s new pastor asked the children to come forward for the children’s message. They came, and came, mostly by themselves, but a few accompanied by a parent.
Somewhere, maybe in the choir loft, nursery, basement, or narthex, came the rush of children. Clearly more than a dozen, maybe a half dozen more. There were a few older kids still in their seats in the pews, and at least two smaller ones in the row behind us. But the stairs leading to the altar bustled with young bodies, straining to get a closer look at the hand puppet popping up from behind the pulpit.
While it wasn’t a revelation, the morning did provide a reality check to look beyond the stereotypes of what you expect, and can, find at many mainline Protestant congregations.
And it proved again the truth of the adage that the noise and commotion of children in a church service should be cause for celebration—the church is alive.