Last Saturday, I watched as 13 UCCA kids laughed and fought and ate together while their parents went home and played Scrabble, had an actual conversation over dinner out, sat in a parked car eating potato chips, or went home and did the laundry.
On Sunday I saw these same kids again, drawing Valentine’s Day cards, learning Sunday School lessons, making pretend underwear out of paper bags, and doing even more laughing, fighting, and eating.
It was against this backdrop that I observed 2 UCCA teens listening intently to their teacher as she taught them about the transfiguration of Jesus. And another 2 teens sitting quietly in the sanctuary during the annual meeting, listening to the stories of our past year’s successes, as well as our hopeful plans for the future.
A mom from church—a friend—stopped by later in evening to drop off cards the Godly Play kids had made for those in need of a bit of good news in their mailbox. This friend-from-church had taken the cards home to stamp them with a special message and to write on them each child’s name. This was after she and her children had walked their neighborhood streets selling Easter candy—made in our tiny church kitchen, by an army of volunteers—to raise money for our older youth to go on a mission trip this summer.
I will see many of the faces of my Saturday and Sunday on Tuesday, as we come together to glut ourselves on youth-made pancakes and scrambled eggs, before entering the season of Lent on Wednesday, when we will once again come together and share in the burning and wearing of ashes.
As Irish so aptly put it yesterday, “this is our life.”
So while many say we are a growing church, I say instead we are a church that is growing.
Our pews are packed more tightly these days, of that there’s no doubt. But so too are our friendships, our shared commitments, our bonds forged through a shared love of Christ, hope for humanity, and struggle for justice.
Our youth share in one another’s birthdays, pray for each other’s sick cats, aging grandmothers, and dying friends. They squabble over (un)shared toys, who gets the sour candy versus the sweet, and cry when they are hurt by the words or hands of another
In other words, the kids we watch play and fight and create and learn on Sundays are doing so as family. As family they are free from the burden of Behaving in Public and can strip down to the bare bones of How They Act at Home.
Because they are.
Whether it’s crawling under the pews, rummaging through the kid-snack stash, or passing the peace in class, they have a church that is so much more than a building better populated now than it was a year or two ago: They have a church they can call home.