Monday, September 05, 2016

Lost Boys (sic)

In Lost Icons, childhood is one of the things of which Rowan Williams says our society is bereft.

Perhaps we can build on that, and say we are losing out on children.

Of course, the critters are still around. Lower fertility rates and older parents there may be, but births abound. I'm talking about the ways that, in treating our little ones as commodities and not people, we actually lose contact with them.

Weddings are a good example. I understand the difficulty of the invite list. I really do. But what is it with this trend for the blanket 'no children' rule? 

These events are more about achieving the perfect party than welcoming a couple into a community, of which children are part. It's kind of understandable that if you're spending the average and absolutely terrifying £30,000 on your do, you don't want mucky paws and screeching to 'spoil' it.

And don't we love to escape our role as parents? If I'm dancing and drinking away a reception, a 7pm bedtime will drag me back to the reality that my identity is now bound up with caregiving - I'm trying to forget that, thanks!

Churches also struggle with the kids. They disrupt a carefully planned sermon or gentle, candlelit reflection. And yet our flagging denominations want to grab and keep young families. Tricky.

The response is often to spend money on a youth minister and flashy resources. Make sure the littles are entertained and hidden away in other rooms. Roll them out for a rehearsed but oh-so-cute show and tell every now and then.

Again, I understand the difficulty of balancing order in worship with the needs of particular individuals. I also understand the fear of dwindling congregations (though I do wonder what we have to fear if we really believe our faith is true?) But surely the starting point should be togetherness and tolerance, not management and spending? Otherwise, how on earth will the loudly disabled or uncontrolled mourner ever feel welcome?

Children make us face up to how demanding, unmanageable, needy, poorly-inhibited, inconvenient and totally-lacking-any-spending-power-for-anything-that-lasts we really are. They remind us of our age and our eternal youth, our limitations and our capacity, our responsibilities and our essential freedom.

And that is precisely why we need to have them around as much as possible.

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