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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

As a child, we played Church out in the yard of our house.  We would sing “Give me that old-time religion; it’s good enough for me.”  And then we would sing a verse dedicated to each of the women ‘shouters’ of our Cedar Avenue Church of God, Cleveland OH during my earliest memories.  The verse would go “it was good for Sister Smith” (my grandmother); and as we went through the roll call we mimicked the way in which each of these women gave praise to God… in the Church.

In later years I heard Shirley Caesar saying that she and her siblings and friends shared the same tradition of kids playing Church in the yard.  Said that on one occasion something happened to her that made the others run into the house to get Mama.  And when Mama came she said, “Shirley Ann ain’t playing this time!”

In consideration of continuance of the “Church’s Losses”, I turn on this week to approach the most difficult of all: the “Loss of… The Children!”

In the quiet pews of many churches, a noticeable absence persists: the laughter, chatter, and energy of children.  All those folk “trained up in The Way that they ought to go”… in Worship… got a story to tell. And so do I.  My grandmother had her Usher’s Sunday and her Choir Sundays.  HER Pew for us was the 2nd row opposite the Preaching Lectern —facing the Choirstand, where the slightest activity from ‘our pew’ would cause her immediate descent… from where ever she was… to rain down fire.  We used to say she would ‘pinch a plug’ from our arm or leg.  Or when necessary, some of my siblings and cousins have remembrance of being ‘taken out’, receiving her ‘switches’, to return to our pew with that ‘soundless wounded cry.’  In the quiet pews of our Church?  Children!  No laughter, no chatter, no falling asleep (only to be awakened by that ‘pinch’).  All energy of children, woke and directed in diligent attention to the ‘Order of Worship’.  Still to this day!

And I repeat for the 2024 Church.  In the quiet pews of many churches, a noticeable absence persists: the laughter, chatter, and energy of children.  And so I am looking for the period in my time when the Church began to separate children from the Worship service as a very deliberate response to their activity being distractive to “The Order” of worship.  The “Children’s Church”.  This thing, that could never be an option for me, trained a generation of children to not have to attend to Worship as Order.  So when they grew to the age of ‘Big Church Worship’ they simply decided…not!  And as the next generation of children arrived, they seldom, (with the exception of them being paraded into the Communion Table each 1st Sunday) —ever saw the Sanctuary during the Worship function of life.

The Church has failed in coming to terms with the fact that it provides the SINGLE & SOLITARY SOURCE of ‘God Knowledge’ in the life of every individual born in this Nation.  When the Church yielded to the TRUTH of “Suffering, the Children to come unto Jesus, and forbid them not’— the Sunday School was pressed down, shaken together AND running over.  But to separate the Children from Worship… has become a whole other matter.

The ‘silent exodus’, this separation of the children from Worship.  This, what began as a very deliberate absence of the children, can now be seen as a life and death Impact on Church Decline. The Church has been in denial and many denominations have refused to even look at this problem to even seek understanding in the presentation evidence as to why the Church in 2024 has little to no one in the pews under the age of 40.  Evident that the absence of children in church services has far-reaching implications for the decline of congregations, and Faith… worldwide.  The move out of worship DOES NOT yield… a return.

It is critical in a 2024 Black Church Reformation to know that this is only ‘one side’ of THIS coin!  The other side is a candid look at the lives of CHILDREN… where I myself can now count “Three Generations of “Unchurched… Children”!  “Then are you also without understanding?  Can you not see… (Jesus)

Children in separation from the Church, whatever their reasons are (and the Church could severely benefits from simply taking a greater interest in “The Lost”); but children in separation from the Church, do not raise their children in the Church.  And their children do not raise their children in the Church…  And so Black Grandmama’s sit alone in their pew, every Sunday… praying for the intercession of God in the lives of their… Generations.

Join the Dialogue at my “Swellcast”.  At all times: https://SWELLCAST.com/therev. By email: talk2therev@icloud.com

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