children & church

An interesting online discussion recently suggested that “one issue with Anglo-Catholic liturgy is that children have basically no involvement”.

I think the exact opposite. From my perspective, catholic worship is “let us play” as much as “let us pray”.

From my perspective, catholic Anglican services are a natural environment for children. If being a catholic Anglican is understood as some sort of obsessive ritual formalism, then not just children have little place there. Such a style is mere formalism, a show with strict, arcane rules.

But, if worship is understood as using signs, symbols, art, music, gestures, actions, and beauty – then, surely, this is a happy environment for children. That there are bits they/we don’t fully understand, or times when we are expected to sit still, these are surely positives in human growing, not negatives. Our secular colleagues are touting this as “mindfulness” etc – why are we so frightened of it?

Part of the issue is that the 1-hour weekly Eucharist is expected to bear the weight of full Christian formation (remembering that “committed” often now means once-in-three-weeks, ie 20 minutes a week). This means that the 10-minute sermon is seen increasingly as adult education rather than a homily, breaking open the Word.

If you are separating by age groups in the Eucharist for the Ministry of the Word (for separate education at the readings-and-sermon time), then you need to have the adults leave the place you are worshipping in as often as you have the children do so! Adults need education at least as much (if not more) than children. If the 10 minute homily is regarded as adult education, we are in our secular context, in trouble.

Thankfully, the discussion oozed with examples of catholic Anglican worship with full involvement of children, including in leadership. Children are given percussion instruments to join in the music, liturgical roles are given to them, new roles are created for them, and adults learn new things as explanations are directed to the children.

I have often written about children in church. My book Celebrating Eucharist is free online. Here is my chapter on Children at the Eucharist.

Some previous posts on this topic:
Children in Church
Children at Eucharist
5 Reasons Children need to be in Church
Children in Church
Children in the Liturgy
.

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