Two Letters

To: The two young mums sitting in front of me at church this evening.

I know we didn’t get a chance to talk, and I regret that, but I wanted to tell you that you have some very adorable little boys. The young one sitting directly in front of me, how old was he? Two? Three? His big brown eyes were open with such wonder and his excitement at the pipe organ and candles was beautiful to see. I think that is where the phrase “wide-eyed wonder” comes from. I am guessing, from his reaction to everything, that you don’t come to church very often. I’m glad you came tonight for the Nine Lessons and Carols service! It was pretty full, there must have been 800-900 people there. I’ve been slow at getting into the “Christmas Spirit” this year, but your children reminded me of what it should be like – wide-eyed with excitement at the joy and wonder of Christmas.

I wish I had taken the opportunity to lean over during a carol and whisper to you that not all people at church are like the two old ladies sitting directly in front of you. I was happy you were there and would love to see you another Sunday if you choose to come back again. I hope you didn’t feel pushed aside when someone mentioned the soft-space for kids at the back of the sanctuary. It is more kid friendly back there and your boys probably enjoyed themselves more. Were you still able to enjoy the service from there? I wasn’t enjoying it much after you left, and I was still in my seat, close to the front, with a good view of the choir and the readers. I was troubled by how you were treated and I hope that you don’t think that is how all church people are. Most of us are loving and welcoming and would be overjoyed to have young families like both of yours join us on a regular basis.

If I ever see you at church again, I promise I will come over and talk to you and I hope you have a better second experience.

To: The two old ladies sitting two rows in front of me, directly in front of the two young mums.

Have you no idea what you did tonight? Do you really think that repeated turning around to loudly “shush” a two year old is going to make your church service better? Is cursing the toddler’s mother really the way for you or her to hear the Good News of the birth of Jesus?

I was so embarrassed for you. I wanted to take you aside after the service and humiliate you the way you humiliated them. But I didn’t. I did not think that would be the best option and since I could not think of a good way to word things, I let it be.

But I still wonder, did you listen to any of the Scripture readings tonight? What about the short paragraph before each reading. I’m talking about the parts describing the marginalized and downtrodden in society; how they were the the one’s God chose to appear to, not the high-and-mighty religious folk snug in their pews every Sunday. Sound familiar? I know that you like everything to be “just so” and that the little boy’s squeals of delight over the new sights and sounds of church were too out of the ordinary and disruptive to your comfortable little church life. Did it ever occur to you that the reason why Jesus came was to hang out with the people you just cursed? Has it occurred to you that your actions may have pushed two people and, by extension, their children, away from church? Is it any wonder that our churches are shrinking when folks like you are doing your best to scare people away?

Please, don’t ever let me catch you doing anything like that again at my church. Next time I don’t think I will be able to contain myself.

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