posts tagged with 'church'

at church

Yesterday was a big day! Not because it was Fourth of July—though we did celebrate that with dinner at our friends' house, much fun—but because it we went to our first in-person church service since March 8, 2020! Lots of other churches have been open for a while, but we're being cautious: this was our first service, numbers were limited, everybody had to wear masks, and there was no singing. It was still fun to be back, though! Being with lots of other people that I know at least by sight is pretty nice. I've missed it!

It was funny, though, how much we'd forgotten about the whole process. For Elijah, it was hard to even remember what the church building was like. That makes sense: the pandemic closure lasted almost a fifth of his whole life! Leah and I were pretty confident we remembered how to do church, but the length of the drive was a surprise to both of us. We're out of practice taking that long to get anywhere. But nobody forgot about hanging out on the playground afterwards.


In a former age Sundays saw us spending lots of the day at church. No longer, of course. Still, yesterday we managed a fair impression of that long-ago schedule, only over Zoom. The day got going at 8:30, when I started the Kids Church meeting in order to prep with our guest reader for the day. The actual prep took about 30 seconds, and then we enjoyed 20 minutes of lovely meandering conversation—you know, like you do at church. Elijah joined in. Kids are meant to join the meeting at 9:15 but the first one actually arrived a little after 9:00, so I talked to her for a few minutes. By 9:15 things were going strong. When Kids Church ended at 10:00 Zion and his friends hung around in meeting waiting for the adults to leave so they could talk and play together. It reminded me so much of the same group of kids mooching around the classroom space like they always used to do. So I left them the meeting, joined "big church" on my phone, and headed outside.

While I certainly do miss seeing people in person, I must say it was lovely to be able to "attend" church while walking the dogs in the sparkling snowy woods. And I was back in time to end what had become a Minecraft adventure in the former Kids Church Zoom and join the end-of-church social time—like coffee hour but only five minutes long and without coffee. Still, it was nice to see people! At 1:00 there was another church meeting, which ran until 2:30: unlike actual church, which is run in webinar format, this time you could see all the people. And there were breakout rooms and things. Then Harvey finished Sunday off with Youth Group from 7:30 to 8:30. Really finished: everyone else was in bed long before that was done (I did get up to say goodnight to him and turn out the lights). A full day of Zoom is exhausting! It was super nice to have so much church, just like old times. But I'm glad we can look forward to an in-person day today!

holy week, unholy work

Today was Maundy Thursday, which means we're into the meat of Holy Week now—the part where the days have names (though I heard the term "Spy Wednesday" for the first time yesterday, so that's a thing too). Leah and I aren't entering into the contemplative heart of the season, because we're being totally destroyed by stress.

Leah's stress has nothing to do with the liturgical calendar; she's just absorbed in a couple big projects at work, in preparation for a conference next week. It means ten-hour days, and lots of brain-space taken up by work thoughts 24 hours a day (at least she works on writing about the Bible... that's kind of holy, right?).

In my case, it totally makes sense that I'm busy this season. That's what happens when you work for a church—even a non-liturgical church like ours. Well, I say "non-liturgical"; but now we've got a couple of Episcopalians in charge of the families program—me being one of them of course—so Good Friday and even Maundy Thursday events are happening annually. Today was my job. We had a little over 40 people for a pot-luck with communion and foot-washing, so I think it was a success... but for one thing: very few adults were willing to be part of the foot washing! Leah says it's because they saw it as a kids' event. Maybe. I think they need to pay more attention to John's gospel. Oh well, there were plenty of kids who knew what to do.

kids at church washing an adult's feet

the best part of Holy Week not counting Easter

Now that that's over with, my stress levels will drop by at least 50%. For Easter proper, my only role is making sure everyone has enough food and seeing that the trash is taken out. True, calling donut shops to try and order 15 dozen for Sunday morning is a terrifying experience, but at least it doesn't last long (for the record: so far, no luck). I can't promise that I'll be ready to have a transcendent spiritual experience come Sunday, but I think at least I won't have a nervous breakdown before then. Then Monday is Patriots Day. Tuesday? Tuesday I'll finally relax.



So, for the most part we really enjoy going to church on Sunday. There are lots of wonderful people there, for one thing. But for our family, it's not entirely a relaxing and restorative time. More of a work day. That makes sense for me, since I actually do work for the church—I have a full morning of looking after the elementary kids and the coffee and bagels. Leah's not sitting around relaxing much either: besides keeping up with the all-encompassing needs of Lijah (and the other boys sometimes), she also does her part to volunteer with the middle school kids, as a greeter, and—every once and a while—up on stage at the preacher. Yesterday was one of those days.

She did a wonderful job with her sermon—twice—and that would have been plenty. Besides that, though, she ended up doing most of the Cafe setup, since nobody else was there on time to do it. It made the church feel smaller than it is: you know, when the preacher has to set up the refreshments. Lijah was in my care for some of the second service, after spending some time in Sunday school and some time with Grandma. I was trying to do things, like brew more coffee, but he was very distracted by being able to hear Mama's voice over the speakers. One time I turned around and he was gone; I knew where he was going and caught him just at last (first!) row of seats before the stage (and I like to think I did it without being too distracting too!). Then we sat and listened for a while.

We were there from 8:30 until almost 2:00, so it was a day. Everybody was glad for some down time when we got home—just like we are every Sunday afternoon! And we're all looking forward to a nice quiet day of school and housework today. Mondays are the best!


joy full

some plastic eggs in the backyard

a small fraction of the total

We had an exciting Easter day Sunday; so exciting I've only managed to summon the energy to describe it now. And I'm still not sure how much I have to spare! Of course, the boys started the day in brand-new suits.

three boys in new Easter suits, posing by the fence


Leah is a wonderful seamstress and produced a trio of lovely suits—the first time either Zion or Lijah have had jackets as part of their Easter finery. Harvey and Lijah both were very well behaved and sat still for their fittings, which is why their jackets hang properly. Leaving Leah behind for a few minutes to ready the house for a party later, the boys and I headed off to church to set everything up. That done, they got to work enjoying the craft tables.

Lijah reaching up high to paint a paper egg on a table

a bit of a reach

Some of them, anyways; Zion wasn't so sure about the Easter-sized crowds, and he wasn't happy until he connected with his friend Eliot and they found a spot better suited to their energy level.

Zion and Eliot drawing together in a quiet corner

out of the way

Harvey didn't seem to mind the hustle and bustle.

Harvey painting amidst a crowd of kids

a happy multitude

There was a service in there somewhere, but we didn't manage to pay much attention to it. There was too much going on, including special food.

Harvey reaching for one of many donuts on the table

plenty for all

And the Elementary Kids Church Holy Week art show, featuring Harvey's sculpture "Despair".

Harvey's clay sculpture

comes before joy

And, of course, anticipation of the egg hunt! Lijah was so excited he didn't think he could wait for it to start. The eggs were in there!

Lijah trying to squeeze through the gate into the egg hunt

let me in!

He had a delightful time and easily found his five eggs, but then things took a turn for the disastrous when he tripped and fell headlong into a mud-puddle. He was not happy.

Lijah crying, with mud all over the front of his suit

not happy

He was also tired. So Leah took him home, while the other boys and I hung out through another service and then helped clean up. Leah was cleaning up at home and setting up a fantastic inviting party—and also hiding lots of eggs in the yard. We got home in time for me to hide a few more, then our guests started to arrive, ready to find them all. We held them off for a few minutes, then it was go time.

kids rushing into our yard through the gate

1 2 3 go!

Due to their age and upbringing, some of the kids weren't sure what to do at an egg hunt, but they were all thrilled to be there.

Kamilah looking serious holding her basket

egg hunting is serious business

We'd set up the party inside, but as we watched the kids run around after eggs it occurred to us that it was actually pretty nice out all of a sudden, so out came the food and chairs. It was delightfully spring-like.

a few friends eating at the picnic table outside

Easter dinner

The party went on for maybe four more hours, inside and out, and by the end we were filled to the brim with joy, friendship, and delicious food. We didn't take in much theology over Easter 2016, but at the end of the day it was pretty easy to feel that Jesus is alive!



We go to a pretty non-liturgical church, but the appeal of seasonality in faith is pretty hard to resist, and after several good years with Lent-like observations before Easter we're dipping our toes into Advent-analogues. It's great!

poinsettias in front of the Advent wreath

signs of the season

Advent is an awesome thing to do at home with your kids, because who doesn't like counting down to Christmas?! It doesn't have to be complicated: you can slip all sorts of spiritual content in there without the kids thinking it's too heavy. Our Advent calendar is just a (totally amazing) felt-board Bible story, and the kids are thrilled every morning to pull out a piece and hear the story—even without chocolate!

It's nice at church too (even if we can't do the really good Advent hymns...). This year Leah is upping the excitement level by running a "Pop-Up Cafe" to serve coffee drinks and homemade baked goods. Harvey was proudly involved in all aspects of the first day of operation, from planning to counting the money. Lijah... didn't really help.

from behind: Leah serving the cafe crowd with Lijah and Harvey to either side

dealing the treats

I plan to make a pecan pie for this Sunday.

Of course, being a non-liturgical church we don't really get the whole point of Advent. In the marketing material our "Light in the Darkness" Sundays are referred to as "the Christmas season", and there's no way we can resist societal pressure to decorate early. Not to say it's not pretty!

the Christmas tree at church

well, close enough

We're holding out against the pressure here at home, despite frequent expressions of curiosity from the boys about the timing of our procuring a tree. All their friends' trees are already up! When their complaints get too desperate we'll distract them with the Advent calendar... only four more days until they get to take out the owl!


holy week

the wooden cross at the front of the church, draped with purple

Good Friday cross

We haven't had much time to think about writing this week. The warmer weather means that we need to spend all the time outside, and then this time of year there's also a lot of good church to do.

Zion at the table set for our Maundy Thursday supper

passover, christian-style

Yesterday we ran a Maundy Thursday service for families. Not too many people ended up being able to come, but everyone who did had a fun time.

me washing Harvey's feet at church, with other kids looking on

he's part of what we're doing

Then this evening we went to the Good Friday service.

a view of the crowd, from the front of the sanctuary

before we got started

7:00 to 8:00 pm is a tough time for the boys, but they did great.

Lijah peeking over Mama's leg during the service

they all stayed awake, for one hour

And our church being the way it is, there was plenty of interactivity to keep their interest.

paper shapes floating in a tin basin of water

joys floating in sorrow

Passover tomorrow with the Jewish grandparents, then we're all set for Easter!