Pew Sermon for Sunday 23rd October

A tale of three dragons

It has to be said, my engagement with children in church has had a chequered past. Whilst I see myself as everyone’s favourite uncle, and the life and soul of the Sunday School playgroup, alas, not all those of tender years agree.

When we were first married, and before we had children of our own (and even when we did) I was regularly scolded by my wife for smiling at the youngsters in the pew in front, thus making them cry. I was then regularly told off further, for making the entire pew shake with my supressed laughter, because (a) it is clearly wrong to make children cry, even by being ‘friendly’, and (b) Mums and Dads in the same pew can feel the vibrations, and without a doubt, will not be sympathetic. They will notunderstand.

Personally, I think a little toughening up of those over-protected youngsters, with a nervous disposition, is no bad thing. But just about everyone else thinks it is. Discussion point: Can one man, standing against public opinion, still be in the right? Well, yes, but I am usually not!

Even my own grandchildren always seem to have a six-week phase in their lives, when they find my friendly overtures about as engaging as a horror film. And of course, the more I burst out laughing at their predictable (and wholly unjustified) terror, the louder they bawl, and the tighter they cling on to Grandma, until I am shoed away.

I think “it’s the way I tell them”.

I sometimes find this very frustrating, because youngsters are just so very energising and interesting, and can be tremendous company. Maybe they just need to get the level right? Or maybe I do? Discuss!

I don’t know if our area Dean has spotted this alarming character flaw, but in any event, he put me firmly in charge of the adult confirmation class, and not the junior age one.

No problem to me – “a man’s got to know his limitations” (as Clint Eastwood said in Magnum Force). So, I did the adult evening class, and it was brilliant. Everyone contributed personally and deeply over five weeks – it was a privilege to share with them. Not a child in sight.

Until the day of the confirmations (last Sunday) when the two groups combined. It was a wonderful service, Bishop Andrew was great, and it was a really moving time for the candidates and their families.

But how was I going to get on with the youngsters?

Well, as it happened, there was only one. So, never one to let defeat get the better of me, I set her an advance challenge – can you spot the three dragons in church?

Well, she was a bit old for that sort of children’s game, so I forgot all about it. Turns out, her two younger siblings spent the whole service excitedly trying to spot the dragons in church – and went into hysterical paroxysms of excitement at the communion rail when they spotted two of them! They then had to be dragged away by embarrassed parents before they could spot the third!

Is this what communion – or confirmation – is all about? Spot the dragon? No, of course not. But I know two youngsters who now strongly disagree. And I have to say, I am with them!

Suffer the little children to come unto me, that’s what I say…!

Have a good week everyone.