As one who was taught at an early age the “reverent quality” of silence during the sermon, I admittedly stumble and occasionally lose my train of thought when a child cries or screams during my preaching. My beloved wife can attest to my frustrations with this as I share them with her far too much regarding our son’s timely boisterousness that ironically coordinates with the sermon. Though I have grown significantly in the parenthood quality of zoning out young straying melodies, I still have a particularly weak threshold when I hear that familiar: “Daaaaaa!!!!!!” from beneath my wife’s pew. My gracious parishioners smile and say how cute it is to hear my son’s joyful praise, however, my response is always: “Well, that’s one way to describe it.” Reading through my thinly veiled sarcasm and seeing the discomfort all over my face, more than a few people have kindly reminded me: “Pastor, crying in church is a good thing; it means we have little ones.”
And then it hits me: The people are absolutely correct! They aren’t smiling and laughing at Aidan’s outbursts in order to be polite, but instead because--here in this place--his sounds symbolize the life and future of the church. Off-putting as it may be, a baby crying is a child being raised in the faith—a family keeping its baptismal promises. With that in mind, one could say a quiet church is a dying church, or worse yet a dead church. Adolescent sounds of any kind are a mark of a church’s youthfulness, and more yet a sign of its welcoming nature to all people—kids included. To expect total silence from children of any age (or in that case adults) for more than 5 minutes in our day in age is much to ask. Kids make noise--that’s what they do. We as both leaders and laity, in the church, need to grow in our understanding and praxis of the church as the community of all God’s children. This means (for me at least) remembering Jesus’ words about receiving the “little ones” (Mk. 10:13-16), and letting the Holy Spirit work patience within us in spite of our surroundings.
While I am sure I will continue to struggle when I hear that little boy scream out in church, and think to myself: “Argh!” I’m thankful to be surrounded by two faithful communities with ears to hear the future voice of the church in our midst. Next time you hear that child crying in the sanctuary on Sunday morning—whether you are up front in the pulpit or back a few pews away—remember: crying in church is a good thing.