Sometimes we lead our children in worship of God, and sometimes they lead us.
Charlotte is a two-year old girl who attends Sunday Worship with her parents and her older brother. We have a children’s area up the front of our worship space, with a mat for younger children to sit on and age-appropriate and faith-related materials they can engage with during the Service. Yesterday, like other Sundays, Charlotte was there with other children. At one point in the Service I (the presiding Minister) shared a multi-sentence prayer on behalf of the congregation. After each sentence, Charlotte spoke out a loud “Amen”, until finally her “Amen” was joined to that of the rest of the congregation.
Where and how did little Charlotte become an “Amen-er”? She has been “Amen-ed” into the life of God’s people by experiencing and sharing in regular prayer times in her home and, by extension, in the weekly gatherings of her church family. Over time the practice of prayer has become natural for her, so that she knows what it is to say “Amen”. The message is simple. Children learn to pray by praying. Children learn to worship by worshiping. In doing so they find their voice, and those who hear are blessed.
Charlotte’s “Amens” also remind me that while to adults it may seem they are not taking in the sounds and smells and movements of worship, young children are absorbing much more than we realise. The Spirit of God is at work in them as the Spirit is at work in adults. Even when playing in our midst they are participating. We need not be anxious about children “being children” in worship settings. They do not have to become “adult-like” to hear and receive and engage and respond.
The Message paraphrases Psalm 8:2 as follows: “Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.” Charlotte’s enthusiastic expressions of faith reminded all who were gathered that we too should say “So be it, Lord” over and over again in our lives and in our world. Her voice invites us and calls us to make use of ours. Yes, Charlotte led us in our worship of God yesterday, and we were all better for it!