“We go to church now, Mama?” My children ask looking up to me with eager eyes, expectant and hopeful. It could be a Sunday morning, but it could just as easily be any day of the week. My children love to go to church. They tell me, “I see my friends at church.” They jump for joy when we say, “Let’s go! It’s time for church.” At 4 and 2 they think that church is the place where they can listen to music, meet their friends, and occasionally share a meal. It’s a building where they feel safe and welcome. It’s a place to go and give an abundance of hugs to friends. They are a joy to watch, but someday, I imagine, church may not bring them as much joy. There may come a time when they don’t feel welcome or when they question what they’re hearing. Their schedules may become busier pushing church to the backburner. If this time comes I want my children to remember the smiles that worship and the church community bring to them. During those times when they wonder why they are still going week after week to worship, I hope they remember this joy which they are experiencing now.
I have a snapshot of my children dancing and twirling in the aisles of the church. The organ and piano were playing and the congregation was singing. The kids didn’t know the words to the song but they used their bodies to share in the good news it proclaimed. Both of them had smiles that lit up the room; so palpable was their joy. I give thanks for the church’s music and the gift of song. I hope they always remember this joy from music.
Before bedtime we pray as a family lifting up prayers for people and for the world. We speak names out loud. We offer prayers for those who ask us to pray for them. We give thanks for family, friends, neighbors, and teachers. And then we go to church and see many of those faces in person. I love watching my children greet people at church with a high five or a hug. I love their smiles and seeing them loved by others and loving others. And it all begins with prayer. I hope they always remember the power found in prayer and the connections that form in the body of Christ.
These are my prayers, my hopes, and my dreams for my children – that they will always feel welcome and share that same welcome with others.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website or follow her work on Facebook.