While I do not completely agree with the author's views on Baptism (she is Presbyterian), this little article I ran across is very interesting on the need to include children in the Ash Wednesday liturgy. I wish I had run across this article a few weeks ago because we are planning a separate Ash Wednesday liturgy for the kids here at St. Paul's.
I am always torn about what to do with kids on special liturgies like Ash Wednesday because I think its important to make liturgy as accessible and understandable as possible because liturgy is catechesis in a way, and gearing a service intentionally for kids is a good way of doing that. By the same token, though, I somewhat recoil from doing special "children's church" services that are divorced from the main church body altogether. I fear we tend to ghetto off the kids or the young adults into some weird subgroup, never to hear or see them.We do pray in common, kids being no exception to this rule.
I got to thinking about all this after pondering another blog entry that I have seen some of my more Evangelical friends on Facebook posting over the last few weeks that is found here. Basically, the article has to do with the "Top Ten Reasons our Kids Leave Church." It is an interesting read. Frankly, I did not know what to make of the article the first time I read it because it certainly comes from a much more Protestant non-liturgical and/or Evangelical background. (I admit I hate using to use the term 'Evangelical' because it is so loaded a term in Americana. I have blogged about this before, but that is not my point for purposes of this blog entry.)
The more I have ruminated on it, the more I like the article. It does take a bit of mental translation for those of us steeped in liturgical worship. A few of those 'Top 10' concerns do not really apply to the Episcopal church because we simply don't do some of that stuff, particularly the prosperity gospel/be happy all the time sort of theology. We, however, have our own issues that are similar but different.
What I do think is universal is "the church as relevant" mantra. I cringed when I heard that in seminary, and I still cringe whenever I hear well meaning parishioners or bishops get on a high horse about "being relevant" because Jesus does not call us to "be relevant." Ironically, that list linked above put that as No. 10 on the list; I would have put it as No. 1 on my list.
The Kingdom of God is a whole different Kingdom than the Kingdom of Man or the World. Every time in history when the Church has tried to or succeeded in "becoming relevant," bad things always occurred because what happens is that the Church's Kingdom sinks to the level of the Kingdom of this world, never vice versa. The Church can never hope to compete and beat the World at being the World. That's not what we are called to do; we fail every time we attempt it. Christ Crucified simply isn't fun. "Come give us your time, talent, and treasure so you can take up a mission of suffering and carrying crosses and being a servant to all" is the worst marketing slogan of all time, and yet that is the burden and message we are to proclaim.
That is not relevant to a culture obsessed with sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, and general sin; it is not suppose to be relevant. What it is is an invitation to something completely different, something life changing, something that will rock your understanding of what it means to be human. That's the Christian message. When the Church stops proclaiming that message and becomes a feeble attempt to be relevant to a culture that it is not supposed to be, then that's end game for such a church or ecclesial community. If you are going to be the World, go all in. If you are going to be the Kingdom of God, go all in.
Just don't be relevant. Just don't.