Friday, January 14, 2011

On Throwing Paper Airplanes in Church

I should have known something was up when I picked up my Sam from youth choir rehearsal one day last fall, asked him how it went, and he said, "IT WAS AWESOME!"

Not that he doesn't usually enjoy youth choir. He likes it fine, but IT WAS AWESOME! isn't his usual response.

So I wondered what made it so amazing, so different. I knew the choir had rehearsed in the sanctuary for their upcoming musical, not in their regular spot in the choir room, but surely that wasn't it.

Sam sits in this sanctuary just about every week,

often with the same enthusiasm he demonstrates when I make him put away his clean underwear and socks.

So on the drive home, Sam told me the reason for the twinkly eyes and sudden zeal. I should tell you that the Dana Carvey church lady in me just about had to pull out of traffic and search the minivan for smelling salts!

It seems that his mother had been a ding dong and dropped him off an hour early (in my defense, they changed the time,) so with an extra hour to spare, he and the other sixth grade boys with ding dong mothers had found some worthwhile pursuits to while away the time.

Pursuits like climbing to the top of the balcony and throwing paper airplanes.

"It was so fun!" Sam said. "You wouldn't believe how fun it was! Oh, and you got double points if you hit the baptistery!"

I nearly choked on my tongue.

But that wasn't all they did.

"That sanctuary room is amazing! Have you ever thought of how many hiding places it has?"
"No, I don't think I have."
"There's the pews of course. Dozens of those. I counted them one Sunday when I was bored, but I don't remember how many there were."

"But the best place is that little nook in front of the organ. You know, behind that short little wall? You can hide there and NOBODY will find you. You could do ANYTHING and nobody would know!"

"But you know the best part?"
"I can't imagine."
"The secret slide!"
"What secret slide?"
Sam explained it, but allow me to show you.
See how the pews are arranged theater style, descending toward the front of the church?

Well, take a look at this...

Now come closer.

Yep. That's the secret slide.
I doubt it works for adults, but it might. I haven't tried it.
Come to think of it, I could have been brave and given it a try if I'd wanted to. Nobody was in the room when I was taking pictures.
Sam says it's real slippery and slide-y. You just lie on your back, push off with your hands, and whatever you do, don't raise your head up. Those pews have sharp edges.

The whole time I was listening to Sam , I have to admit, I was having a fight with myself.
Part of me was thinking I should probably thump him on the head. Launch myself into a lecture about sacred space and reverence.
The other part of me secretly wondered what time of day might be best. Just when might no one notice a forty-something woman putting down her purse, taking off her shoes, and slipping under the center of the very back pew?

In case you're wondering, the forty-something secret slider won my internal debate.
You know who convinced me?
The sanctuary itself.

You might not notice it at first, even if you're sitting right there in a pew, but the worship room of First Baptist Church, Greenville, is designed to make us feel as if we're sitting under a huge tree together.

See the branches and limbs hanging over? The mammoth trunk rising up behind the pulpit?
Can't you imagine a crowd sitting under a tree, listening to Christ tell his stories? The children wouldn't sit stone faced. They'd play!
I can't imagine a better place.
But not during worship, of course. That might just earn you a thump on the head. :)

So what do you think? How do we manage teaching our kids reverence without worshiping the things of our sacred spaces? I'd love to hear your thoughts about finding play in church!

Have a beautiful, wonder-full weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky

Thanks to Renée Turner for the paper airplane photo, licensed through creative commons.


Unknown said...

That was just nice.

Thanks for a moment of sanity.

ProvBlog said...

So many questions!
1. So how far were they able to fly an airplane?
2. Sliding is so last century! I caught some kids rolling under the pews!
Just so you know, he hasn't come close to finding the BEST hiding places.
By the way, did you know that it is 150 ft from the top of "the tree" to the floor, and that there is a walkway up there?
Just saying, there are some GREAT spots in that sanctuary!
And some that even help you experience the presence of God.
The former youth guy!

Unknown said...

I have to admit, I was that mom... showing the kids the hiding places, and making paper airplanes, and showing them 'how things look from here' and here and here and upside down, and over there. That's what God was like to me, so that's what I showed them. I hadn't ever thought about it any other way.

Terri said... a parish priest who has wrestled with this from time to time (Vacation Bible School, in particular), I do find it challenging. I want kids to want to be in church, to find the space inviting and interesting. I also want them to understand that some spaces are sacred and therefore we act differently in them than other spaces.

For me the sacred space in a church is the sanctuary - which in an Episcopal Church is the space around the altar. The space where people sit is called the Nave and, while still sacred, is a space where I am more confortble with kids being kids and adults being, sliding under the pews in an empty space when it's not Sunday, would be fine with me. Playing hide and seek in the church would be fine with me so long as they respected the area around the altar. That said I don't think baptists hold the altar with the same sacramental theology as we Episcopals do.

Anyway, good for kids and adults to be able to distinguish sacred space and appropriate responses to that space, especially in this day and age.

But I really hope that if my kids had said this to me that I would have held my tongue, allowed their joy to be joyful, and then shared with them another time, some times on sacred space....

Kat said...

That. Is. Awesome.
I think that is the coolest. They obviously know not to do it during church so I don't think it is a problem at all. I think God was laughing and smiling watching them all have such fun. I think it is GREAT! HAHA!
Jesus said, "Let the children come to me" and I don't think he meant to just sit there and stare at him. He wants them to be comfortable with him. Done! :)

Love it! :)

teachandwrite said...

Having fun is sacred :-).

MedMissions said...

Just curious, who got the most points? Um, but I think its cool the kids playing in the Lord's house, @ least they didnt break anything...they didnt break anything, right!?
The youth in our church play football inside the sanctuary..non tackle.. =)

Anonymous said...

There's a huge part of me loving his enthusiasm for that place. I go to a church where the children are really kept separate, which is okay most of the time, but the "sacredness" of church can become off-putting. How can it be more like home?

Amy Sullivan said...

I think paper airplanes in church are (in Sam's words) AWESOME. I grew up unable to do anything in movement allowed! It always seemed so cold and never a place I longed to be.

Carrie Walker said...

I love this, Becky! Thank you so much for sharing!!

Karen said...

Gorgeous church! Yes, when I was young I played in many-a church waiting on my parents.

Yolanda said...

That was a good post and such a lovely church you have.

Jojo said...

It's funny that you should bring this up but growing up I felt like we LIVED at the church (I'm really not exaggerating). As an adult, my siblings and some of the church friends I grew up with have re-connected through FB. Honestly, we did some funny and crazy things at church but we also had some life changing moments at church.

I have two boys that did some insanely crazy things at church. One prank they played in the church parking lot resulted in a policeman coming into the church and looking for my oldest son. My son hide in the sanctuary and managed to avoid all adults for 45 minutes. Now we laugh at what happened but at the time I was not so amused. The police officer made all of the boys involved with the prank wash the city firetrucks as punishment (and they loved that)! Your son will never forget his church discoveries and the truth be known, remembering church, both reverently, and as a place to explore, makes for wonderful memories.

Holly Dressman said...

Really enjoyed reading this, and it reminded me a recent church lockin Tyler attended last weekend. My boys belong to a wonderful youth group that has lock ins at the church (those all nighter activities that I can only help out until I need to go to sleep...). Their favorite game is called "Bear", essentially a hide and seek game. The church is so nice to open up the entire church to them for an evening of worship, fellowship and the searching/finding of wonderful hiding places within the church. I have been blessed to see how such simple fun games with friends and leaders exposes them to the presence of God. Not until I had children did I realize all of the functions that the church structure has to offer. Thanks for reminding me of this today and loved the great pictures!!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I LOVE these comments. It's great to hear your own thoughts about how you felt about being in church growing up. How we are taught and allowed to interact with worship space can be so important--it really influences how we picture God!

And youth guy/Don, I want to try out that walkway! (As long as I'm tied to a rope, just in case!)

I love reading all your memories. I'm so grateful you're willing to share!

Unknown said...

Well, there are worse things little boys could have been doing with an hour of free, unsupervised time, so let them be kids, I say lol.

I just love all these gorgeous photos. They must have beautiful churches out there! I can stand and stare at the stained glass windows FOREVER, something so holy and ethereal about them :-)

Laura@OutnumberedMom said...

Oh, Becky ... oh, Becky. I haven't had this much fun reading a post in a long, long time. Let's just say there's a huge smile on my face. A lot of worse things could have happened with multiple sixth grade boys -- I'm just sayin'...!

Unknown said...

I love this--the secret slide looks awesome and frighteninly decapitating at once! :) I'm a music minister's wife and since our family has spent so much time in church in the sanctuary at other times besides Sunday services I don't really see it as a sacred place. My kids wouldn't get to run in the house or in the church but I probably would encourage airplane flying! A church is just a building. It's when people are inside worshiping God that it becomes holy.

Affordable Medical Insurance said...

I think that is the coolest. They obviously know not to do it during church so I don't think it is a problem at all. I think God was laughing and smiling watching them all have such fun. I think it is GREAT!

Ceska said...

What else can anyone say about AKUS? Great band with a lot of talent all around. I picked up Paper Airplane on 180g vinyl because I'm an avid, vinyl junkie. I simply prefer the warm sound of vinyl records to CD as a personal preference. The LP has excellent depth/sonics and is pressed on virgin vinyl, which makes for a black background and little surface noise. Another solid effort for Alison Krauss & Union Station. They never disappoint. Very pleased and will highly recommend either format. I heard the CD as well and it is expertly mastered for optimal sound quality. I would welcome a SACD version of this title as well if it's ever released. Well done AKUS & Rounder Records.