Bishop Thomas made me cry.
I was in the chapel at Antiochian Village. It was during the St. Emmelia Homeschool Conference. The chapel was packed full of families. Families with children. Children who were happy to be there, and children who were not. Children who were quiet and well behaved, and children who were not.
I was standing in the back. In front of me, the nave was like the ocean on a rocky beach: constant motion, constant noise. Sometimes it murmured. Sometimes it growled. Sometimes it crashed and roared. But the noise never stopped. The motion never stopped.
Parents handed little ones off to each other, hoping that a toddler who wouldn’t be still for mommy might be still for daddy. They took the loudest, most boisterous children out into the narthex to try to settle them down. They did everything they could do to keep the atmosphere in the chapel prayerful and worshipful.
And yet the chapel was full of children. And so the noise never stopped. The motion never stopped.
And in Bishop Thomas’s remarks at the end of the service, he told the assembled parents that their children belong in church. He said that God Himself welcomes them, that they belong in the church. How could they learn to love the church, he asked, if they were forbidden from being there? He talked about growing up in a church where children were not permitted to attend the Liturgy.
He talked about how much he hated cry rooms, and how he wished he could demolish all of them.
And then he told the parents assembled there that no one should tell them to take their children out of the church. He said if they go to church, and their child is behaving like a child, and someone tells them to take the child out, they should say, “Bishop Thomas told me I shouldn’t do that.”
And that’s when I cried. I cried, even though I no longer have young children. I cried because, when I had young children, when one of my children struggled with being in church, when I was doing everything I could to keep him in the church, I was told to take him out. If he couldn’t be quiet, he couldn’t be in church. And he couldn’t be quiet.
And so I cried. I cried for my child who, now grown, was sent out of the house of God. I cried for my child’s pain. I cried for my own pain, for the embarrassment and shame I felt when the priest told me to take my child out. I cried for all the little ones who have ever been told they were not good enough to be in church.
I cried because Bishop Thomas said they are welcome in the Church.
They are welcome in the Church.
Let the little children come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of heaven.
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