03 April 2012

Children in the Liturgy

Children in the Liturgy, by Louis Weil

The Revd. Dr. Louis Weil is the James F. Hodges and Harold and Rita Haynes Professor Emeritus of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

Children are startlingly direct in engaging signs. I knew one child, an extraordinary child named Sean, just two in his father's arms. His parents hadn't decided yet whether to let him have communion, but as I placed the sacrament in his father's hand, Sean reached out to me and said, "I want Jesus too." As a rule I don't give the sacrament to a child until the parents approve, so I blessed Sean and afterwards talked to his parents. When I had talked to them before they had said, "We need some sign that he knows what he's doing." This time I said, "Well, if you want a sign, I think you've been given a sign." The next Sunday, we made Sean a communicant.

Children experience something on a deep level, not heavy-handed or didactic but very direct, from observing adults. Adults' reactions are profoundly important. By their reactions adults share, subtly but directly, in the formation of the attitudes of the children. What I remember from my childhood experiences in the synagogue are the great dramatic acts in the liturgy, the carrying in of the Torah, for example, and the effect those acts had on others in the congregation.

I'm eager NOT to impose a liturgy basically designed for children on the adult community. Some special occasions may present reasons for offering children's liturgies, but in general I want us to create a liturgy which is inclusive in broader sense. In fact, we ought not to lose sight of the elderly at the other end; interestingly, they pose some of the same questions that children do. But for now, let's focus on the children.
Link: Children in the Liturgy

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