This past Sunday, I was ready to head off for church bright and early. My younger daughter was still asleep, so I went in to her room to give her a kiss goodbye. She stirred and very sleepily asked me, “Is today Sunday School? And Children’s Chapel?” I almost giggled that this was her first thought upon arousal from sleep. When I told her, “Yes,” she would be going to Sunday School and Children’s Chapel, she groggily replied, “It’s going to be fun.”
As I have been thinking about my child’s simple question and sense of joy about church, I had two thoughts. The first was, I am so happy to know that my child is finding joy, happiness, and fun at church. As a parent, you hope your child will find as much joy in Jesus as you do, but you learn pretty quickly that every child is an individual with their own passions and sources of joy. To see my child develop a love for church and the experiences she has there has been so thrilling. And even more importantly to me (especially as a clergy person), I am so grateful that her positive church experiences are almost totally independent of me. Other adults are guiding her faith journey. The community is raising her up in the faith. Our church family is helping her find joy in God that is all her own. That reality is one that I have deeply desired for my own children, and I am so proud that my church is a place that does the same for so many other children and families.
The second thought I had about my daughter’s early morning pronouncement was that I want adults to have that same sense of anticipatory joy about church too. Sometimes we struggle to get ourselves to church because our lives are so over-scheduled that church feels like just one more burden. Sometimes we go to church out of habit, but go through the motions without much joy or food for our souls for the week. What I long for is church to be a place that when we first awake on Sunday mornings we think of church and we think, “This is going to be fun!” We can do that at Hickory Neck because we know we will see people who have given us so much joy in our spiritual journey. We can do that at Hickory Neck because the worship, preaching, and learning will give us new insights and renewed energy and passion for God. We can do that at Hickory Neck because we know, somewhere during the morning, we will encounter God – and it’s going to be awesome!
This past Sunday at our Rector’s Forum, someone asked about how we invite people to church, how we share the Good News with others. Where we start is sharing those stories of how, when we wake up on Sundays, we think about Hickory Neck and think, “This is going to be fun.” When you tell the story of how your church brings you joy, your countenance changes, your energy shifts, and your enthusiasm is contagious. The only thing left for you to do is say, “Hey, you want to come with me next time? It’s really fun!”