Sunday, March 14, 2010


A church I formerly attended is considering changing the starting time of its weekly one-hour worship service, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. One of the considerations is that this later time "might be more convenient for families".

I presume this means easier to get the kids out of bed and fed and dressed, with maybe a little relaxed time for the grownups to sip a cup of coffee and read the Sunday paper. Having been a single parent, I know what it is to struggle to get out the door at all, under ANY circumstances. I know the tears and wails, the lost shoes, the missing buttons, the tantrums over a rejected breakfast menu item or a forgotten favorite toy....

And yet....

When I visit my Old Order River Brethren friends, and arrive Saturday afternoon so I can attend meeting with them the next morning, the household arises about 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. The 10 children, from toddler to college graduate, are in the car (van!) in less than an hour--no fussing, no drama, no crises. Everyone moves quietly and efficiently about their farm chores and preparations, as busy and serene as the gentle bees in one of the family's hives.

On the road, we slowly relax into full wakefulness, and begin to eat the snacks prepared the night before: sweet rolls, apple wedges, other finger foods. The children talk quietly, sing, engage their baby brother. By 9 a.m., we've arrived in Dallas Center, near Des Moines, where there is a "large" community of this tiny Plain (somewhere in between Amish and Old German Baptist) denomination.

The children sit peacefully through the 3-hour service. ALL the children, and there are a lot of large families with little ones.

No ritalin. No force. No problem.

Something is working there, in the Old Order River Brethren culture. Something is not working here, in modern church culture.

It is observations like this that intrigue me, that lead me on in this odd journey towards a greater faith.

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