Saturday, May 5, 2007

One UU writes in her blog of her sense that children are not welcome in her church. Another writes of hearing an earnest conversation at a District meeting that perhaps, in her area, there were now enough UU societies that there was finally room for an adults only congregation. (I wish I knew how to create links to these comments in this blog, but I am a newbie, and can't seem to make that work, however hard I try.) Both women, understandably, feel discounted, unrespected, anything but recipients of an awareness of their, and their children's, inherent worth and dignity.

These are not, alas, new sentiments among many UUs. For people who think UU worship (they'd prefer the word "program") is all about thinking and intellectual stimulation, and for ministers who value their words above life itself (I am a minister, so I can say this), the presence of children is an issue. As a member of one congregation I served wrote (complaining to the Board about me and my new custom of inviting the children to be part of the first 20 minutes of the service) and this is a direct verbatim quote: "I come to church for intellectual stimulation with my peers, and children are not my peers." So there.

There probably is room for a club without children, even a UU club, though you couldn't call it any more than a club, and I strongly doubt their buildings would be beautiful enough to wind up memorials to their movement, as the Shaker buildings and furniture have (the Shakers were also without children as I recall)! Indeed, I have also heard it said, in reference to some butt-wrenchingly murderous chairs at one congregation -- "They're part of our test for membership, to see if you're Stoic enough to be a UU". No, it wasn't a joke.

But not everywhere, and not every UU fortunately falls into this one-sided, left brain only camp. One of my favorite Unitarian moments was in a small congregation where five women happened to give birth round about the same time, and had taken to sitting at the rear of the sanctuary together with their babes, breast-feeding as needed.

Following one service an elderly gent approached me with the gentlest of complaints. "Um ... you know I do welcome the young people to our congregation ... but I have to say ... during the prayer this morning ... with all that feeding going on ... the silence was a bit too gurgly and snuffly even for me." We did find a wonderful solution, however. He began sitting at the front.


Christine Robinson said...

The Shakers were without sex. They adopted plenty of children and presumably brought them to church. (but if only young adults who don't want sex stay in your church, you have to adopt a LOT of children to sustain yourself...).

On your post page there's a help button. Blogger has really well done help and a quick article about linking to other blogs.

juffie said...

Thanks for that correction!

Chris said...

Our UU church recently has gone through a year or two with a plethora of young ones, nursing off and on, and off and on, much to the consternation of some of the congregants who in the next breath dispair that we don't have a larger attendance in our RE program. It took the effor of mnay smiles and gentle remarks to ease the toddlers through to the RE stage while keeping the grumpy elders attending services. Most made it. I am amazed anew at the evidence, even in such so-called enlightened groups as UU's, that our supportive verbage toward children is not matched by our behavior. What a surprise that was to me when I came back to the church and what a disappointment. Perhaps, with enough determination, that attitude can be changed.

juffie said...

One big clue to the unwelcomeness of children, despite what we often say, is the lack of "crying rooms" (common in so many other churches) where those with babes can see and hear the service, but (usually via thick glass walls) sounds do not disturb others.

Jeff W. said...

Loved that last anecdote! A church with five nursing babies and a welcoming attitude is exactly the sort of beloved community that I'd like, it seems like such a manifestation of our lip-service to inclusion and community. I like your solution: let those who are far enough away from it years to have forgotten the importance of breastfeeding move to the front and enjoy being able to see the action better anyway.

Danielle UUCA said...

My UU has a baby cry room so I wasn't aware of the reservations of the rest of the congregation. I agree with some of the commentors, we need the babies to have a great RE program. I have met a few people who have grown up since infancy in the UU church and thank goodness thier parent didn't listen either.

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