Sunday, 8 November 2009

Children. Church. Communion. Candy.

I have a couple of mantras. One is “There is no secular world”. This was given me by Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of the Diocese of Ohio.

The other is one that I have picked up along the way. I express it thus: “Church is not complete until the children are present”. I refuse to see children as “cute” optional-extras in the congregation. I believe that they are an essential part of any Church.

About once a month I attend All Angels by the Sea Episcopal Church on Longboat Key. I like the congregation and I admire the Rector.

Longboat Key is lovely community. It attracts home owners of considerable wealth. Many of them are retired. Only 40% of the community is year round, the balance being retired “snow birds”. So we see very few children at All Angels.

There was a wee lad in Church today. I found out that his name is Julian. He is from Brooklyn, N.Y. and he was on the Key with his Mom to visit his Grandma.

Julian was maybe five or six years old. When he arrived in Church with his Mom and Grandma he was immediately “shushed”. (That was a pity as there is nothing better in Church than the background chatter of children!).

Julian knelt down on the floor with his back to the Altar so that he could do some crayoning, using the seat of his chair to rest his paper and crayons. I could therefore see his face and admire his crayoning. He has a great sense of colour and geometric patterns.

Our eyes met a few times. Each time he would avert his, and return to his crayoning.

I was amused to see that as he concentrated, so his tongue stuck out just a little bit. (We grown-ups do this too! There is something about close and concentrated work that lead us to stick out the tip of our tongue, as if this would in some way help our concentration).

Julian got bolder in his attention to me. I began to make silly faces, and to jiggle my head in nutty ways. That got him to grin from ear to ear.

After communion, with his mother’s permission, I gave him one of the hard candies I had stashed in my jacket pocket.

At the end of the service I introduced myself to Julian and told him my name. I added that I was sure that he and I would like each other very much. I gave him another candy.

A few seconds later another parishioner asked Julian who had given him the candy. “Michael” he replied in a strong tone, as if to say: “everyone knows that Michael hands out candy”.

Julian had not received the bread and wine at the Eucharist. But I want to think that the two pieces of candy which I gave him, and which he enjoyed so much, were a kind of Holy Communion.

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