Last Sunday, I visited a church in College Park for the first time with a group of friends. I was excited until I tried to enter the sanctuary and was blocked by an usher who said, “We have a nursery.” I replied, “Thanks, but I’m not interested.” She then said, “We have a wonderful staff. I can take you back there.” I replied, “No thank you. He’s staying with me.” She said, “They really don’t like children in the sanctuary. You should consider using our nursery.” To which I said, “I’m not taking him to your nursery. I’m a visitor.” I can only imagine the look on my face at this point, so she finally said “Okay, we can give it a try.” I had my tongue set to say, “You know what… I can just go back home.” So as I sat next to my friends who were looking bewildered because I disappeared for a few minutes due to my detainment, I felt extremely uncomfortable and distracted. Any time Frederick even quietly babbled to his hands, I was looking over my shoulder to see if I was about to be escorted off the premises.
Just when I started feeling less anxious because we had made it through the sermon with no loud noises or crying, we stood up for visitor recognition, and the pastor decided to call me out in front of the entire congregation by telling me they have a nursery, although my baby was very sweet–maybe the sweetest they’ve ever had. Color me embarrassed. Thanks for making sure I absolutely do not feel welcome.
Here’s the thing… I’ve waited this long to take Frederick to church (except when he was a month old and I was still in my hometown surrounded by the church family I grew up with) because I wanted to make sure that we both were ready. Frederick is a wonderful baby who is really only fussy when he’s hungry. So I went to church armed with a couple of bottles, looking for a pew in the back of the sanctuary so that I could get up quickly if he started getting loud unexpectedly. I totally understand how distracting an unruly or upset child can be–I’ve been in front of a couple. But to expect a brand new visitor to leave her four month old with perfect strangers?? Not okay. And to basically make me feel like I’M the one with the problem because I’m not willing to?? Not cool. I’ve been to churches with nurseries–however, I’ve never been to one where the nursery is mandatory. I’m not comfortable with that one bit.
So here are just a few of the reasons that Frederick will be with me on Sunday mornings for the foreseeable future:
1. I would have to be a nursery worker myself or be very familiar with the nursery staff to leave my baby. It seems there is a new report on the news about abuse or molestation of children every week, and 50% or more of those reports involved someone at a church. Call me paranoid, but I’m not trying to take those chances with my son. Messing with kids can change the course of their entire lives. And messing with my child would change the course of mine–it’d take a whole lot of prayer to keep me from “putting them paws on em” <–#dontjudgeme, I watch reality TV, lol! But seriously, just say no to pervs who pretend to be saintly and trustworthy who prey on little kids.
2. I want my child to see me worshipping at church. He hears me singing my gospel songs all the time: when I’m trying to push through bad days, when I’m grateful for the life I have, or when I’m just making sure I still have the chops since I don’t use my talent very often. He sees me praying from time to time. He sees me reading the Bible for myself (although it’s usually online so he probably won’t actually identify what my physical Bible looks like… hmmm maybe I should pull it out sometimes as he gets older). And I read him Bible stories. I want him to see all of it because I’m his primary example.
3. Frederick needs to learn how to behave in different scenarios, and in church is one of them. He needs to see when it’s inappropriate to talk (how many adults do you know have side convos in the middle of the sermon? Precisely.), that he needs to be able to be still for a time period, and all the other things that come along with being at church or any other program where there are certain expectations. The only way to learn is to practice.
4. I hadn’t thought of it before reading this blog post about church nurseries, but the germs… I know Frederick is exposed to some at his primary childcare facility by virtue of just being around other people, but at least I know the procedures and precautions taken there.
So I’ll be writing a letter per my mom’s advice, and including this passage:
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence. Matthew 19:13-15