Everything is different with a baby in tow. I wrote about Eva’s day at work, and how she changed how I viewed my office. Would her presence at church be the same?
Eva has attended a number of services, but just in the last few weeks she’s way more cognizent of the proceedings. This particular Sunday is the first one where we bring her to church without her car seat.
We find our pew and sit down. Eva engages in her favorite past time: people watching. She marvels at the number of people that walk in and sit down. This is super cool.
The coolness ends when service starts, and nobody is walking anymore. She’s mildly entertained by the standing and sitting, but that’s just not as interesting. First the robed person says something, everyone says something back. She starts to lose interest…and patience.
For one of the songs, a duet meets in the back to sing it for the congregation. Eva, being a baby, is not being constricted by the social norms we adults have. She’s free to turn around to watch this duet…and join them. She sings a bar or two, and feels she’s accomplished what she set out to do. She’s tired now, and is starting to get figity. The tears may come at any second.
We sing a hymn, and Eva is happy again. Being surrounded in sound can be calming for a baby. This hymn is Halleluia Jesus Lives (why yes, it was post Easter), and the second verse speaks to Eva :
Jesus lives! Why do you weep?
Why that sad and mournful sigh?
He who died our Brother here
Lives our Brother still on high
Lives forever to bestow
Blessings on His church below
With this comfort in mind, she closes her eyes and takes a nap.
She missed out on the sermon, where she could have learned aliteration. We pondered Peter’s punchy preaching. Eva sleeps the rest of the service away. It’s hard for me to remember a time when this was all new, when the rhythms of a service were not predictable. Eva sleeps not out of boredom of repetition, rather out of learning too much. When was the last time I learned too much?
The next Sunday we are back at church, with the same rhythms. Robed person says something, the people respond. I wonder if she has noticed the pattern I noticed when I was young. If the priest says something long (like a prayer), the response is short (amen). If the priest says something short (“The next hymn is 248”), the response is long (the hymn).
This Sunday, Eva is more energetic. No longer content to sit, she wants to stand and look around. Look at all these people who have yet to tell me how cute I am!
One things does capture her attention. Mommy singing. She will stare and smile at mommy when she sings (as do many people). Mommy is singing to me.
The lyrics to the song are about God, but does Eva know that even though we are looking directly at her, the lyrics are not for her?
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory…
Now we sit for the homily. Those of you who’ve taken infants to church probably know this already, but I’ve noticed that I take in about a third of what I used to. This is because it is hard to hear and process the words when trying to quietly entertain an infant. Today’s homily is no different, but one thing catches my ear :
“we are all adopted into God’s kingdom”
As Eva sits the rest of the service, she notices a difference in this crowd of people. No one is smiling. Everywhere she goes, people are smiling, except at church. Is it because we can’t take something serious if we’re smiling? Regardless, Eva doesn’t care. She’s going to smile. After all, didn’t you hear, we’re ALL adopted into God’s kingdom. What’s better than that?
The man in the robe asks us to greet each other. Each congregant turns to their spouse, their family, and their pew neighbor to express their sentiments through word, with a kiss or hand shake, and with a smile. Smiles. There they are. Eva loves it.
There are things that you are good at in this world, and they change over time. I used to be a fantastic pots and pans guy at the retirement home I worked at in high school, and at one point in my life I could predict the coin toss in Madden. Eva is only months old, but already has many things she’s good at, including this one : if you smile and share your joy with her, she will return it back to you ten fold.
The service concludes and we gather up our things and go. Eva comes away from these two weekends with a growing sense of church. She loves the music, and she sees and experiences the power of community and shared experience at church. That, and she will look at me and say “People should smile more.”