A few weeks ago, the young people at Emmanuel Evangelical Church in North London organised a conference to share with the wider church their own aspirations to stop thinking of themselves as overgrown children and instead to grow towards greater maturity in Christ. The conference was called Raising Expectations, with talks on The Myth of Adolescence, Godly Ambition, Motivation, and Taking Risks, and the videos are now online below.
One of the most common misunderstandings about rituals is that it’s necessary to understand them in order for them to be meaningful. In particular, we are told, unless we understand:
(1) what the significance of a given ritual is (what we might call the meaning of the ritual); and perhaps also
(2) why the ritual has the significance it does (what we might call the rationale for the ritual);
then the ritual means nothing.
At least, that’s how the argument runs.
The trouble is, the argument is complete nonsense. It’s very easy to see why.
I recently overheard a conversation between a father and his young daughter at Emmanuel that made me laugh so hard I asked their permission to share it with you.
They kindly agreed.
It was one of those moments that all parents are familiar with, when you suddenly understand the reason why God has ordained praise from the mouths of children and infants – they have a way of getting to the point that most of us adults wouldn’t think of, largely because we’d be worried about offending someone.
(That was your warning, incidentally: if you’re fragile, easily offended, or otherwise in need of theological Safe Spaces, please look away now.)
This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. This period of the church year has traditionally been viewed by Christians as a time of waiting, of looking forward, of expectation.
Most obviously, Advent is a time of looking forward to the celebration of our Lord’s birth at Christmas. Advent is also a time when Christians have traditionally looked forward to our Lord’s return in glory on the Last Day.
With these themes in mind, it’s surely no accident that Advent has also been associated in many church traditions with the practice of fasting. Just as Advent is a time of unfulfilled hope, when we’re longing for something that hasn’t yet come; so also fasting is a way of saying with our bodies that things in the world aren’t yet quite right.
If you go to a church like the one at which I serve in London, England, where the children are welcomed into the main church service along with the adults, you’ll have the opportunity to train your (and indeed other people’s – see point 5 below) children in the rhythms and habits of worship as they grow up.
This raises some practical challenges, particularly as children grow through the various boundaries that they encounter between infancy and adulthood. One of the most significant boundaries is reached sometime between the ages of 1 and 2, when the children become toddlers, and are old enough to start doing things other than gurgle, feed, vomit, cry, or lie asleep in Mum’s or Dad’s arms.
At this point, children start being able to stand, sit on chairs, kneel, talk, raise their hands, and so on. However, at this tender age they can’t be expected to start participating fully in the service. They can stand, sit and kneel unaided, but they can’t do so unprompted; they can talk and sing, but they can’t read the words of the prayers and songs; and so on.
So then, how can we help children to increase their participation in the service as they grow through the toddler years?
David Field has been an Elder at Emmanuel Evangelical Church in London, England, where I serve as Minister, since we began in March 2009. Before that, he taught at Oak Hill Theological College in North London. It was there that I first met him when I trained there a decade or more ago.
Since that time, David has been everything I could have wished for as a mentor, fellow-Elder, and friend. I think I can say without fear of exaggeration that I have been shaped more by David as a Christian, husband, father, and Minister of the gospel than by anyone else I’ve ever met. Indeed, the whole Field family have been an immeasurable blessing to the whole congregation at Emmanuel ever since we began.
But the Fields have left Emmanuel and moved to Oxford. This will be wonderful for them, as they’ll be able to see a lot more of their second daughter (more…)
It’s that time again – you’ve got about an hour before dinner on Saturday afternoon. What are you going to do?
It all depends on the sort of person you want to be. For we’re all now in the process of becoming who we will be in the future.
So here are a couple of options.
Option 1: Watch TV. Or play Minecraft. Or check your Twitter feed. Or something.