This week at MHBC we had an “all ages” service where everyone – babies, kids, and teens included – worshiped together in our main service. I think it’s really important that children aren’t always separated from “big church,” so we do some of version of this often. This week there were a couple of motivations. It gave all of our teachers and helpers a Sunday off (very handy on a long weekend, which is also the fifth weekend of the month. We have a four week rotation for all our teaching, etc and I HATE FIFTH SUNDAYS). Also, it was Labour Day weekend, when our tradition has been to acknowledge and celebrate the many ways that God uses the people in our church wherever they work or serve. One of the ways that we do this is to invite people forward to be “anointed.” With oil we make a cross on their forehead, and pray for them as they head back to school, or return to work, start retirement, or continue their role as a parent. I like this Sunday a lot, and including our littlest family members in it seemed very appropriate.
One of my favourite parts of the service was a panel discussion we had when I asked people at three different phases of life – someone in the work force, a University student and a seven-year-old – to share about the challenges they face. There was a lot of wisdom in that group. But I have to say it was the seven-year-old who got to me. I asked her what was hard about the first day of school and she said: “It can be hard because you don’t always know where to go on the first day. You don’t know where to put your things. You have to figure everything out.” Well, it was good she stopped there, because my heart was clear ready to burst with the aching for the reality of seven-year-old first day of schools. How easy it is for us adults to forget what it’s like to be a little person in a big world! And the truth is it is scary to go to a new classroom. It is scary to not know where to put your stuff. It is scary to wonder who you will sit next to and if people will be nice and whether or not you will like your teacher.
So I was very glad when our anointers lined across the front with the little bowls of oil in their hands that I saw the kids join in the procession to come forward. I was glad we anointed our kids and said: “In Jesus name we anoint you as you go back to school this week.” I was glad that we prayed for them and their worries. I was glad we had done it all together.
Yes, it was a little louder, and a little busier and a little more chaotic. It wasn’t perfect… AND – it was important.
Then, yesterday, as we walked to school, my four-year-old Lucy – who was going to school for the first time and surely did not know where to go or where to put her things or what to do when the bell rings or where the bathroom is or what her teacher would be like – said out of nowhere: “Mommy I liked it on Sunday when you put the cream on my head and said that Jesus was going to be at school with me.”
That’s about as good as it gets.