Wanted: Child-Friendly Church

29 May

Is there any Catholic church out there that actually genuinely welcomes children?

I just read a new announcement concerning children on our church’s website and it left me really downhearted.  It is basically a list of rules our church wants parents and children to follow.  While I understand the need to have rules because many people are rude and don’t respect property or clean up after themselves, it still makes me feel like our children are not wanted there.

It would certainly not be the first time.  I recently wrote about my concerns with having Nate in church, but before that, I experienced the feeling at two different Savannah churches.  One when Nia was an infant and she had started to get a little fussy.  I was already sitting in the last row and was about to get up to take her outside when an usher came up to me and told me that I would be more comfortable in the nursery, oh yeah, and you’re not allowed to have food (Cheerios to help keep Nia occupied) in church either.  The next experience happened this past winter.  Andrew, Nia, Nate and I went to church with Anna Marie, Ella and Maggie.  We were there early and sat in the back of the church at the end of the pew for easy escape.  An older man chose to sit directly in front of us even though he saw we had 4 small children.  Of course they are going to make noise.  They are children.  Two of them are toddlers.  If the noise level even hinted that it was going to be distracting, we’d take the culprit outside.  That wasn’t good enough for the man in front of us.  Just as Andrew was getting up to leave with Nate, the man turned around and said, “You know, there’s a cry room for children like yours.”

We were so disgusted.  Andrew replied, “Yes, I know sir” and got up and walked into the standing-room-only cry room where he was about to go anyway to calm Nate.  When Andrew got back to the pew, he and the man exchanged some words which led to the man asking Andrew if he wanted to “step outside.”  What?!  Not only was that crazy because the man was like 70 and walked with a cane, but as Andrew said to him, “Are you serious?  We are in church!  You’re ridiculous.”

Shouldn’t church be the one place you can receive compassion and acceptance?  Shouldn’t it be where people offer a helping hand or a sympathetic smile not a sigh of annoyance or a look of disdain?   Shouldn’t it compel people to offer even the smallest act of kindness like letting a car pull out in front of you in the church parking lot?

All I want is to worship and feel like I’m part of a community.  To feel welcomed and loved, not scolded and filled with resentment and discouragement.  Here we are, trying to raise our children to follow a religious path and to be loving, patient and accepting as we’re told to be by the Bible, but we keep hitting roadblocks.  I thought church is supposed to help clear the road, not set up the obstacles.

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m expecting too much out of church. I just know what I feel and need.  All I can do is pray for the grace and strength to not let those obstacles push us off the path.  I believe all that matters is that we keep God present in our lives and keep trying to do the right thing – no matter how many bumps we hit. After all, that’s the way it should be, right?

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5 Responses to “Wanted: Child-Friendly Church”

  1. ESTÚPIDO SAVANNAH May 29, 2008 at 6:59 pm #

    AMEN! I look at it this way, if God didn't want them to cry they would be mute until they were 10.

  2. gummibunny May 30, 2008 at 8:42 pm #

    I'm so sorry – church is a place that should be welcoming to your children. Have you thought about bringing up your concerns with the church leaders? I don't know what they could do about it, but it may help them to be more understanding, and to guide others to be more understanding as well. I'm sure you're not the only parents who have felt this way, and if all the young families start dropping out, at least they'd know why.

  3. mom valles May 30, 2008 at 10:55 pm #

    I know this can really be frustrating, but just keep going to church and pray for those people who make you feel unwelcomed. Remember even the apostles made the mistake of trying to quiet the children and keep them away from Jesus, but He said "Suffer the children to come to me."

    Also, you need to find a group of people who also have small children and sort of sit together. That's how we ended up sitting in the section we sit in at St. Joe's. Because so many of us had children who sat in that section, we were very tolerant of each other and tried to help one another. Of course, sometimes a child is so distressed that a parent (usually David) had to take them outside because we had no cry room, but it was a quick escape our that side door.

    Another thing, we used to sit in the back of the church so we wouldn't bother people so much, but my friend Rita Alvarez (Andrew might remember her) suggested we sit in the front where the kids could see the priest better and see what was going on. This really helped, and I have passed this advice on to others with small children. Just don't give up! Your children belong in church, and those other people who have forgotten that church is about people not rules need to have a conversion to soften their hearts. Just hang in there it will all be straightened out. I love you all!! MA/Lola

  4. Scoop June 3, 2008 at 10:36 pm #

    Nik,
    We drive really far to a church with a cry hallway that makes us feel like we're in the church because one that is closer makes you bring kids to childcare. What? He's there all week, I just can't do it. The one that is far away seems more tolerant but I'm sure that wouldn't be the case if we were in the main area.
    Don't give up.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Make babies, but don’t bring ‘em to church « Are You Zhazha? - November 7, 2010

    […] pretty much how Andrew and I are feeling about our church right now. This is not the first time a Catholic church has made us feel this way either. We’re disheartened and disgusted and it […]

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