Practicing with Children

Skipping Church


~Jill Clingan

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —
I just wear my Wings —
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton — sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman —
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —
I’m going, all along.
~Emily Dickinson

I had the cadence of this poem in my head last Sunday as I went about my day. We, as a family, were exhausted. We, as a family, were skipping church. We go to church most Sundays. Matt and I ship our two kids dutifully off to Sunday School, and then we sit in our pew, side by side, where we sing and listen and sometimes we jot down notes and sometimes we don’t and somehow the pieces of the world seem to fit together a little better when we leave.

Last Sunday, though, I just did not want to leave the holy parameters of our five acres of land. Our lives feel uncomfortably crazy right now. Amélie is playing volleyball—that’s two practices and at least one game a week. Jack is playing flag football—that’s two practices and at least one game a week. Last Saturday Amelie had two volleyball games, Jack had one football practice, Matt had a migraine, and we had the additional (joyful and sweet) wedding of our niece to attend.

I am a homebody with a low threshold for chaos who came home from Saturday’s numerous events happy but completely wiped out. I knew, for a fact, that if I went to church the next morning, I would spend the rest of the day (the rest of the week?) completely off-kilter and probably completely cranky. So we stayed home.

Here’s what I would like to tell you about Sunday. I would like to tell you that we had family devotions and then, you know, made homemade bread for the homeless and crocheted blankets for the elderly. But that’s not what we did. I don’t really know what the rest of my family did, now that I sit here to think about it. Here’s what I did: I read a book. I did homeschool prep. I organized things for the new nutrition and fitness group I am leading on Facebook this month. I made paleo pumpkin granola and whipped up my weekly double-batch of almond butter. I did spend some time with God Sunday morning before my day began. Or did I? Honestly I can’t remember right now.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we have had Sundays at home where we have had our own service (see here, back in March 2013, my daughter organized and led us in church at home), but that didn’t happen this past Sunday. This past Sunday, we just all needed to be home, we needed to rest, we needed to be.

That got me thinking, though, about what an intentional Sunday at home might look like. Now please understand—I do believe that church is important. But I am also pretty sure God isn’t the one handing out perfect attendance certificates on Promotion Sunday. My spiritual director told me one time that when her children were young, they would stay home from church once a month. They would have a special breakfast together of coffee cake and fruit. They would take turns doing an activity and having a Bible lesson together. They would sing hymns. Sometimes they would play games or read books by C.S. Lewis or Tolkien or take a mountain trip. There was no bulletin. There was no attendance record. For all I know they stayed in their pajamas the whole day. And I would guess that her children remember more about Jesus and family and Sabbath during those weeks at home than they did from years of weeks in Sunday School. And I would also guess that the stories and hymns and coffee cake weaved together a beautiful tapestry of memories and faith that her children remember and treasure today.

Two of my favorite passages of the Bible are “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week out of the chaos of my life” (Psalm 51:10 The MSG) and “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28-29 The MSG).

I am not going to quit going to church. I love church. I need church. And so do my kids.

But some Sundays—maybe one a month—I want to weave into my own faith and the faith of my children a day of coffee cake and fruit, Bible stories and hymns, great writers and fun games. I want God to take a Sunday of family time to shape a Genesis week out of the chaos of our lives and to recover our lives and to help us learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Because that’s what it’s about, isn’t it?
God creating something new in us
God recovering our lives
God leading us along in unforced rhythms of grace.


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