It’s been a difficult few days, to say the least. My father-in-law passed away after a short, but intense battle with cancer. Not only has it been a sad time, but it’s been a busy time. I never realized how much work it was to pull a funeral together in a matter of days.
My husband has been away a lot recently, making preparations with family for the upcoming funeral. I have been trying to stay busy and keep the house as clean and as comfortable as possible for my husband when he comes home, a sort of oasis in the midst the chaos.
Since he had to leave again this morning to collaborate on the obituary, I decided to go to my family’s church rather than drive forty minutes to our home church. I wasn’t quite ready to face the questions and condolences of my church family and preferred to go somewhere where I felt less known.
It was a short five minute walk to the church that I went to every Sunday with my family as a child. Many of the same people I knew as a youngster were still there, though they’d aged quite a bit in the ten years or so that I’d been gone. A lot of them still recognized me and all of them were excited to see some fresh faces.
At nearly fourteen months, my daughter was by far the youngest person in the church. Everyone else in the tiny congregation, other than me, was probably in their mid sixties or older. I wasn’t worried so much about the age gap, but rather that there was no good place to let my squirmy daughter run free without being too much of a disruption.
Before the service started, the reverend graciously spared me from public shame by announcing that all of God’s children are welcome, even the tiny and noisy ones. She even gave my little tot the freedom to wander the aisles. I felt welcomed not only by the reverend, but also by the congregation. They clearly enjoyed having my tiny human squiggle her way around the church.
But oh, did I miss the nursery at my home church! Until today, I don’t think I understood what an essential ministry the church nursery really is. And I even work in the nursery! In the past, I’ve found it boring and I’m sure I thought it was unimportant. But now I know that a church nursery is not a thing to be taken for granted, and neither are it’s workers!
The service was a disaster for me. My daughter sat nicely for about two minutes reading the books I brought her and cuddling her stuffed dog. However, sitting soon became distasteful to her so I let her wander around between the pew and the wall. Even though she had a whole pew to herself, it still wasn’t enough space for her little body, and we were forced to transition to the back of the church where she could stretch her legs and joyfully toddle about.
It was stressful trying to contain her boundless energy in an area completely unsuited for it. I couldn’t focus on the worship, prayers, or teaching because all of my attention was devoted to captivating hers. Though I wanted to leave, I stayed because I knew that the parishioners were tickled to have a baby in their midst. I also didn’t want to be rude.
The experience wasn’t entirely unfruitful, however. I now have a greater appreciation for the role that nursery workers play in the church, myself included! I used to think that the hour I spend watching babies toddle around was wasted. But now I know that it frees up tired parents to worship.
So thank you to all you nursery workers who served in your churches today. Even though it might not seem like it because you’re singing silly songs, babbling with babies, and changing dirty diapers, you are doing God’s work and it glorifies him. You’re making a difference. You matter.