Pew Wrangling with a Toddler and Infant

I’m going to regret writing this but. . .

Church with Babykins and Sweet Pea has been going much better than I anticipated.

Please note that I described the service as “going much better”, not that it is “easy”.

When I was pregnant with Sweet Pea, I would sometimes leave the church service and think, “How am I going to do this with 2?!” I would think about trying to catch an escaping Babykins while holding an infant or trying to slip out of the service to nurse Sweet Pea with a toddler in tow. It seemed impossible, especially since we sit up front.

Thankfully, Babykins is currently at a cooperative stage for church attendance. She likes hearing the music and flipping through the hymnal. She also likes being able to see the congregation, hence the reason we sit up front. And somehow I’ve managed to convince her that apple slices are an acceptable snack during the service and she’ll happily munch on those.

Likewise, Sweet Pea is proving to be an easier baby than Babykins was. She isn’t nearly as prone to crying fits as her sister, nor does she have the same intense need for movement when I wear her (I can get by with rocking her in the pew instead of marching around the back of the church). She is also a better nurser and I’m able to feed her in the pew. Sometimes she even sleeps in her car seat! About the only time I’ve left the service for Sweet Pea is when she needed a diaper change.

Of course, I’m still far from consciously getting anything from the service. I sing the liturgy mostly from memory as I awkwardly hold a hymnal open for Babykins. I half hear the readings while trying to get Sweet Pea ready to nurse. I less-than-piously stand for the prayers while keeping one eye open on Babykins lest one of her mischievous hankerings take hold of her. And there are moments throughout the service that I have one child strapped to my front and another child balanced on my hip. It’s exhausting, but manageable.

pew-wrangling-toddler-and-infant

However, I’m not naive enough to think that pew wrangling will stay at this manageable level. I know handling both girls will probably get harder at some point (like when there’s 2 mobile kids in the pew. Oh my!). I’ll get frustrated and wonder what’s the point of going to church. Then it will get easier, then harder, then easier, and then someday the girls will be old enough to not need my constant attention during the service. And then I’ll be by myself again and remember with laughing fondness of this time in my life–at least that’s what the church grandmas seem to do.

Now, getting to church on time–well, that’s a different matter entirely. :p


The Lyre Hymnal

It’s difficult juggling a toddler and a hymnal on Sunday mornings. If the toddler isn’t try to writhe out of your grasp, she is grasping for the hymnal in a desperate attempt to destroy look at it. Keeping the hymnal in hand–much less opened to the correct hymn–is a challenge.

That’s why I’m presenting the idea for the LSB: Lyre Edition. The idea is simple. Flutists and piccolo players in marching band have a lyre that straps onto their arms. Why not use a similar lyre on Sunday morning for those of us who need an extra hand free?

The LSB: Lyre Edition will provide small, printed sheets of hymns. Mothers can place in the lyre the hymns being sung that day prior to service (or another helpful member could do so for the members, because, let’s face it, many mothers come running into church as the service begins). LSB: Lyre Edition will provide better mobility for grabbing little ones than lugging a heavy hymnal. Likewise, LSB: Lyre Edition will be much quieter if it is dropped.

You may ask yourself, “Why wouldn’t churches just use projectors for the service?” First off, projector screens often don’t mix aesthetically with sanctuaries. They stick out like a proverbial sore thumb. Secondly, projectors rarely include the music of a hymn. Many of us mothers may not read music well, but we do rely on the hymnal to at least give us a guess where the next pitch should land.

LSB: Lyre Edition: Sing your favorite hymns while keeping your little ones corralled.

LSB Lyre

Okay, so this isn’t a perfect idea. First off, it would be difficult to keep the sheet music small enough for the lyre but big enough to read. Likewise, there’s a good chance the lyre will just wind up smacking a child in the face. But I’m just presenting the idea, I’ll leave wiser minds to perfect it. Not to mention that I’m mostly joking. 😉 

 

 


This Move is Like a New Pair of Running Shoes

This move has been an unusual experience.  I’m not sure how often people move back to a town only a year after moving far away, but this is the first time for me.  My husband and I created an even more unusual moving circumstance by returning to the same house and same jobs (my husband’s job is to go to school so he can graduate 🙂 ).  We even decided to continue worshiping at my husband’s former field work church this year.  Consequently, there is a sense of familiarity in our daily activities.

Of course, nothing stays the same, even for “only” a year.  Our house more or less remained the same, although there has been some touch ups here and there.  The two older farm cats are still hanging around, but our kittens from last year are gone.  My nanny family has an additional child now, so now I spend my days juggling the needs of two grade schoolers and a baby.  My husband’s field work church even has a new pastor now.  Of course, many of our friends are gone either on their calls or on vicarage.  So while our daily activities seem familiar, there are just enough differences to add a nuance of befuddlement.

I told my husband the other day that this move is like buying a new pair of running shoes in the same brand as trying new shoesyour old pair:  You know they will eventually be comfortable but they still need to be broken in.  For me, some of these changes will rub for a few weeks until I can get use to the differences. . . at least that is my hope.          


And From Cross Bearer I Get. . .

On Sunday, one of my husband’s friends from seminary is getting ordained.  He asked my husband to help with his ordination and installation service.  Generally a good job to give a seminarian helping out with a service like this is crucifer (the guy who carries in the crucifix in the procession).  However, my husband’s friend’s new church doesn’t have a crucifix, they have a cross.  Consequently, my husband isn’t the crucifer, he’s the cross bearer.  But whenever I hear “cross bearer,” I think of this:

cross bear

It’s a cross bear. Get it? A bear who is cross!


Communion and the Pastor’s Wife

communion

As far as I understand (and this is without any real research because I’m too lazy to look it up), sole pastors of congregations have two options on how to receive the Lord’s Supper on Sunday mornings:  An elder/deacon can commune them or they can self-commune.  Growing up, the pastor of my home church had an elder give him the Lord’s Supper.  However, he didn’t commune by himself,* his family joined him at the rail and received the Lord’s Supper by his side.

However, this isn’t the only way pastors and their families take communion.  At my church in college and my husband’s field work, the pastors practiced self-communion and their families came to the rail with the rest of the congregation.  At our vicarage church, the pastor receives communion from a deacon or my husband but his wife comes to the rail with the rest of the congregation.  After observing several different practices, I have been considering what I would like to do once my husband has a call (God willing).

This past weekend I finally had an opportunity to compare whether I would like to commune with my husband or be communed by my husband.  My husband and I were visiting one of our support congregations.  Since my husband was preaching and assisting with the liturgy, the pastor’s wife offered to sit with me during the service (who, I might add, sat in the back.  🙂 ).  She explained to me before the service started that she would go to the rail with her husband to receive communion from the deacon.  “Otherwise,” she stated, “I would never get to have the Lord’s Supper with my husband!”  This was my exact sentiment about the communion question, so I agreed to go up with her so I could receive the Lord’s Supper with my husband.

To be honest, I really, really believed that I would prefer communing beside my husband and not care that the deacon was the one doing the distribution.  I miss sitting by my husband in church and thought that communing with him would ease some of this spousal-loneliness.  However, as the deacon finished the dismissal after we had received the Supper, I realized that I didn’t like communing with my husband.  Or, more specifically, I felt uncomfortable receiving communion from someone other than the pastor when there was no real reason to do so other than want of my husband’s physical presence.

To be clear, I’m not saying my feelings are doctrinally correct and the pastor’s wives who receive the Lord’s Supper with their husbands are wrong.  I simply discovered that receiving communion from a deacon made me uneasy.  Consequently, I guess I will prefer to be communed by my husband rather than with him if he becomes the sole pastor of a congregation.

Have you noticed what the pastor’s wife in your congregation chooses to do at the Lord’s Supper?  If you are a member of a pastor’s family, how does your family participate in the Lord’s Supper?

*I realize that a person never really communes by themselves–they receive the Lord’s Supper with other believers, whether other believers are physically beside them or not.  However, in this post I’m talking about the physical presence of others.


Church Nomads

church

This past weekend, my husband and I traveled to one of our support congregations so he could preach at their Sunday service.  Consequently, I was filling out the guest portion of the attendance card.  I quickly jotted down our names and address but paused as I reached the last line.

Home church.

Home church?  Where is my home church?

Technically speaking, my home church is in Iowa at the same church where my family worships.  That is the church where my name is registered as a member.  However, I haven’t worshiped regularly in this church in the last 7 years.  First I was away at college, then I married a seminarian who has us bouncing all around the Midwest.  Consequently, the pastors at this church have no regular contact with me.  It’s a difficult for them to be my shepherd when I live 6.5 hours away.

Of course, then there’s my husband’s field work church.  I worshiped regularly there for 2 years and we plan to return to this church when we head back to the seminary.  But I’m not a member at that church, nor have I worshiped there for almost a year.    Then there’s our vicarage church, where I have worshiped this year.  Likewise, the pastor here has had the most contact with me in recent months–he’s my pastor by proxy.  But we’ll leave this church soon.

Add on the fact that my husband’s home church (the church where he’s a registered member) isn’t the same as my home church, and that question of  Where’s your home church? always makes my brain fizzle.  The fizzling is usually followed by a twinge of sadness as I realize that while I belong to the church, I don’t belong to church.

I finally settled with writing down our vicarage church as my home church.  I then thought longlingly of next summer when (hopefully) we’ll have a home church once again.


Adding a Bit of Excitement to the Athanasian Creed

Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday when Lutheran Congregations typically recite the Athanasian Creed.  It’s the longest of our three creeds, so I came up with an idea to make it more exciting to recite.

You know the children’s song “Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia”?  It’s a simple, repetitious song that doesn’t really teach anything.  No, the fun in this song is that the children are divided into two groups:  The Allelus and the Praise Ye the Lords.  Every time the respective groups sing their parts, they stand up and belt out the words as loud as they can.  When they aren’t singing, they sit down.  The idea is to do the song several times, each time going faster and faster until the children are hopping up and down to sing their part.

Okay, so it’s a little hard to explain in writing.  Perhaps you should just watch it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag5l9u4h4eU (note:  These kids are a bit confused, so they aren’t going up and down like they’re supposed to.  For some reason, there aren’t many videos of kids screaming out this song on YouTube).

Anyway, I suggested to my husband that we should do the Athanasian Creed in a similar fashion:  Divide the congregation into two groups, one group saying the odd “verses” and the other group saying the even “verses.”  Likewise, I told him we should see which group could do it the loudest.

A Creed Sunday

He didn’t use my suggestion for some reason.


Introverts and Liturgical Worship

Last night I finished reading Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh.  Overall, I didn’t find this book as enlightening as I hoped.  While Rev. McHugh does an excellent job defining introversion, his Presbyterian background differs too much from my Lutheran upbringing for me to gain much insight on how to thrive in a church community as an introvert.  From theology to church structure, I found most of my experiences as an introvert in traditional worship churches didn’t line up with his megachurch and evangelism-oriented church experiences.

However, his had some interesting comments in his last chapter about introverts and liturgical worship.  He wrote:

A paradox I uncovered in my research is that introverts often feel more freedom in worship services that feature traditional liturgy than they do in ones that feature more open, informal, unstructured styles of worship.  Introverts often appreciate the depth of liturgical prayers and hymns, as well as the rich symbolism that fill traditional churches.  They may feel less expectation from worship leaders in these churches to offer outward, emotional responses.  One friend who attends a traditional church said that the liturgy “guides me into God’s presence” and requires less energy on his part than the nondenominational church he used to attend.  

Some introverts decry the shallowness of contemporary worship songs and their repetitive refrains, which can feel emotionally manipulative.  They say that loud music disrupts their internal dialogue with the Spirit.  One member of a charismatic church lamented that when people showed emotion in worship, the pastor would proclaim “The Spirit is really moving this morning!”  These kinds of churches tend to encourage spontaneous bodily responses–raising arms, kneeling, dancing–and many introverts are uncomfortable with these kinds of reactions and the attention they draw.  And the more the expectation for this kind of worship grows, the more introverts consider it artificial and stifling.
–Adam McHugh, Introverts in the Church  pages 190-191

Shockingly, many of his reasons that introverts like liturgical worship are the reasons I prefer liturgical worship. I like the depth, I like the structure, and I like the calm.  Of course, I also like the fact that Lutheran liturgy focuses on God coming to me instead of the other way around, but his description of liturgical worship was surprisingly accurate.  However, I am now curious about what can appeal to extroverts in a liturgical worship.

Is anyone an extrovert in a liturgical church?  If so, what do you like about the worship?  What do you dislike?


Why Using a Hymnal Is Such a Comfort

It would be foolish and prideful of me to claim that using the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) is the only way to worship.  I realize that there are many styles of worship and that God never gave a specific rubric for worship in the Bible–a church doesn’t have to use LSB to having meaningful worship.  However, that being said, I think my worship experience yesterday makes a strong case for the unified use of the hymnal within the LC-MS.

This past week was moving week for my husband and me.  On Thursday and Friday we traveled about 650 miles from our farmhouse to our new home (which I am dubbing “vicarage house”).  Since my husband technically has a week or two before starting his vicarage and the current vicar was preaching the last time, we decided that we would wait another week before worshiping at with the vicarage congregation.  However, this also meant that we needed to find a different church to attend on Sunday morning.

My husband found a tiny Lutheran church about 30 minutes from the vicarage house.  Upon arriving, we were warmly greeted by the pastor.  He explained to us that they were using Divine Setting III from the hymnal and gave us a card so we could take communion.  We found a pew and waited for the service to start.

Nothing has been more comforting in this move than to walk into a strange church 650+ miles away from where we worshiped last Sunday and know what was going on.  I may not know where the post office is, I may not know how to get to the bank, I may not know what on earth I am going to do with myself this year but I do know DS III.  I have heard that some people don’t like a traditional liturgy because it isn’t exciting enough or that it doesn’t change enough from week to week.  However, when everything around me is different and a bit scary, I don’t want an “exciting” or “unusual” church service.  All I wanted yesterday was to hear God’s Word and receive the Lord’s Supper without feeling overwhelmed and confused.  Thanks to that hymnal-using congregation, I was able to find just that.


My First Easter Vigil

My husband has been talking about attending an Easter Vigil since we started dating.  Unfortunately, since most churches don’t have this service, we never had an opportunity to attend a vigil service.  Not this year!  Much to my husband’s happiness, his field work church has an Easter Vigil every year and we were staying town for Easter.  I, on the other hand, wasn’t convinced about vigiling the night before Easter.  Much like crossing myself or wearing crucifixes, I thought of a vigil as “too Catholic” (a distinction that I use a lot and my husband has never understood).  However, since I have spent the last three Easters hearing about how great attending this service would be, I decided to check it out.

This Easter Vigil was divided into six small services.  The first service was the Service of Light, where the congregation enters the church following the paschal candle.  At this point, the lights in the sanctuary were dimmed, I believe to remind us that Christ still lay in the tomb.  The second service was the Service of Readings, where passages from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, and Daniel were read.  The third service was the Service of Holy Baptism, where the congregation restated parts of the baptismal liturgy to remind them of their own baptism.  The fourth service was the Service of Prayer, where the Litany of the Resurrection was said–lots of “Have mercy” stated.

Then came one of the most beautiful transitions into Easter I have ever seen.  The fifth service was the Service of the Word, where the first “Alleluia!” of the Easter season was proclaimed and the lights turned back on to full brightness.  During the hymn of praise (“I Know That My Redeemer Lives”) the altar was stripped of the Good Friday black and replaced with the Easter white.  During this service there was also a sermon focusing on God’s promise to Abraham that “Your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,” (Genesis 22:17b)–surprise, the enemy is death and Jesus has now conquered death!–and on Joesph of Arimathea’s faith .  Pretty cool stuff.  The sixth and final service was the Service of Holy Communion, where we had the Lord’s Supper.

There are many reasons why people might shy away from attending an Easter Vigil–it’s too long (the one I went to took an hour and 45 minutes), it’s too hard to go to church that many times in one week (which I totally understand, I missed the Maundy Thursday service), it’s too Catholic, and so on.  However, if you ever have an opportunity to go to a vigil I would encourage you to at least try it.  It was a clear and beautiful way to leave the gloom of Good Friday behind and enter joyfully into the Easter season.  And on that note, Happy Easter to you all!  Christ has risen!  Alleluia!