My first "Family Service" at Church in the Valley this morning...
I know, I know - every time we gather as the people of God it should be a family service...And there's clearly something wrong if it's not "all age" every week...But I've inherited this, and there is something to be said for earmarking one particular Sunday on which the children from our church school are specially encouraged to join us for worship - and also, a Sunday on which children are invited back to celebrate the anniversary of their baptism.
Whether that makes it also the best Sunday to invite the congregation from the rather more formal Church on the Hill for a Benefice service is another question that remains to be discussed....but for the moment, that's the way things are.
So...instead of the organ (and our highly professional organist, who produces miracles from the congregation on a weekly basis) we have a rather gifted pianist whose preferences are rather more along the Mission Praise and music group lines. We have a shortened liturgy. We have a parish breakfast of tea and toast (between the 8.00 and the 10.00) and, when it's not a Bank holiday weekend, we even have some extra children in our midst.
When it came to the sermon slot, I invited them to join me sitting on the edge of the dais and told the story from there, which felt fine and was mostly well- received I think - but my favourite moment came just before the Peace, when the baptism anniversary children are invited to bring up their baptism candles for a round of applause and a prayer. There was just one baptism child there - celebrating his third anniversary. Together we lit his candle from the Paschal Candle, I prayed for him and then told him to keep on shining for God and to take his candle carefully back to his parents.
I don't think I have ever been taken so seriously.
With immense dignity, one slow, slow step at a time, he made his way down the aisle, savouring every moment of glory. The congregation were entranced and so was I. I rather think God enjoyed it too...and goodness, that child did shine!