“Her sounds are welcome”

If worship is meant to be a 'work of the people,' how can we welcome everyone, including those who disrupt our expectations? — Rebecca Gresham

Mom is holding the baby. infant. Mom comforts the child

Photo by Kristina Balianova.

Going to church can be nerve-wracking as the parent of a baby or toddler. No one can control when they might giggle, shout, melt down, and so forth. While my home church eagerly welcomed my newborn, visiting other churches was always challenging.

Such was the case when I was a prospective student visiting a seminary with my family. I wanted to make a good impression by attending chapel and seeing what worship was like. The chapel service happened around nap time, but we sat in the back.

We weren’t ten minutes into worship when my little one discovered her vocalized noises echoed through the cavernous space. We tried to hush her. We tried the toys and the binky and looking at books. We were packing up to leave when someone came up behind us. Wrapping their arms around us they said, “Her sounds are welcome here as a part of our worship.” I was shocked. Yet, I knew the words were genuine. We stayed through worship and the words rang true.

“Her sounds are welcome here as a part of our worship.”

That experience shapes how I do ministry to this day. When I lead worship, the sounds of young ones or older ones who struggle with impulse control or confusion are a part of our worship, not a distraction. This mindset is the sort of hospitality and radical welcome we are called to as people who profess Jesus as Lord.

Liturgy is derived from a Greek word that translates into “the work of the people.” Our worship is not the show the pastor puts on any given Sunday morning. We all pray; we all sing; in some ways, we all preach, even those little babies who make all sorts of echoing sounds.

Our worship is not the show the pastor puts on any given Sunday morning.

Worship has never been about us or our preferences, it has always been about God and God’s word. Perhaps we are called to get a bit uncomfortable to practice the hospitality of Jesus. Worship should make us a little uncomfortable so that we might be moved to grow in our faith. The next time a baby cries or a confused adult yells out, ask Jesus what it is you might be called into at that moment. May you be blessed to explore that question and know you are loved and called to grow and love.

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