Sunday, February 22, 2015

This video PROVES that you need not dumb down Liturgy for kids

Growing up in a Lutheran Church, one of the (many) things I could never wrap my mind around was the need for a special sermon for the young people present in the congregation.  More often than not, it seemed to be an excuse for kids to go up, holding hands with a sibling and for the congregation to go "aww" about how cute these kids are especially when they gave outrageous responses to the Pastor's questions as if we were watching "Kids say the darndest things!"  Usually this children's message was a paraphrased version of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel readings which would then be dialed up for the adults after the children were dismissed.  And again, there would be "ooing" and "awwing" as the kids went back to their pews.  (Disclaimer:  As a parent now, I probably should excuse the fawning over the kids going up.  They can be pretty darn cute as they do that).

In tandem with the children's message, which, I admit, I often derisively called the "babies' message" was the need to involve the young of the congregation with the worship and the liturgy.  So, there were moves to make sure that things were hip and trendy such as making a "worship ensemble" with drums, guitar, bass and lyrics that would make most pop artists blush. Sometimes, "special services" were created by the youth group with skits and up-tempo music.  I remember once that I committed a piece to this, but it was a four part arrangement for the words "Kyrie Eleison."  I also remember that there were some, especially among the adults, who balked at the addition of this saying that it wasn't keeping with the spirit of what they were trying to do.  I probably wouldn't have minded these things so much, but it always took place in the church itself.  I did not think that was the proper venue to perform plays.

Furthermore, I recall so many instances when, as a member of one of the youth groups, that we were encouraged to go to various "Christian Rock Concerts" so that we could learn more about our faith.  I remember going on camping trips (which were generally quite fun) and while getting there being subject to listen to Christian contemporary artists.  At this time in my life, I would listen to nothing but classical music and I failed to understand (and still do) how these CC artists could rival the artistry, the talent and the religiosity of someone like J.S. Bach! 

My church was not exceptional. I think every church, mainline Protestant or even Roman Catholic was doing something along those lines.  Everything had to be hip, trendy, cool or people won't come or want to come, especially kids.  And those kids had to be there or else it would die.

I'd like you to watch this video.  HT:  Pastor Peters at Pastoral Meanderings.  In it, you see two Russian youths who are around five or six years old essentially "playing at Liturgy."  They are recreating parts of what you may find at the Vigil.  They are censing (Notice what their "Censer" is made from), reading from a "Gospel" book and chanting Alleluia.  They are placing the holy oil on their mother's forehead all while she is chanting a Slavonic Hymn (don't know which one, though I recognize the melody and the other is the Troparion "O Lord, save Thy People"), they are kissing the hands of the "priest."  They are blessing with their hands in the correct posture, blessing with the "Gospel book", placing it reverently upon their "altar".  Notice even the "vestments" they designed and how they remove their hats (I don't know what the Russian version is called) at the appropriate times.  Simply, this is fantastic.  These kids were definitely paying attention.  Kudos should also go to their mother who probably took them to the vigils and the Divine Liturgy.  Kids do get it.  And if they start out that young, then they're probably going to be less likely to want to rid themselves of it. 

Thus, you church growth people out there, even in the Orthodox world, do not need to pander to the lowest common denominator.  Kids can and do get it. It doesn't need to be made simple or paraphrased for them.  Hold on to what you do and let the kids imitate them.  So, watch below and be amazed.  And, yes, it's even cute, too!