In the Service of Children
by S. M. Hutchens
My wife and I in general do not "enjoy church"—that's really too much to ask. This is because of the high likelihood that in any given church, even the reasonably orthodox, what is going on in the liturgy, from the music to the Scripture-reading to the preaching, amounts to an unrelenting modernist attack on classical Christian sensibilities—and yes, this includes Catholics who ought to know better as well as Protestants who once did. The church that instead of thinking first, biblically, theologically, and historically, about what a service of worship should contain, thinks rather about how appealing it is—how well it is calculated to draw and retain a following of maximum size—will quickly alienate people like us. The rule is that there is no Rule involved in decisions governing worship, only taste—and in accordance with this conviction there is always a conveniently Evangelical excuse for ignoring members of elitist minorities. And who needs them, anyway?
So, the obligation of "church" is something we could easily do without if it were not for the apostolic command that we "forsake not the gathering." But in fact, even more than this, we go for the sake of, and as a testimony to, our children. Married Christians who have no children (an abnormal and undesirable state) lack one of the most powerful incentives for getting to church regularly: so that the young may have their faith enlivened by being raised and trained in the company of believers who love them.
Since Mary and I have had children, all our decisions on church attendance—on whether we would attend, make it a duty so that non--attendance was rare and only for very good reason, and on what church we would attend—were made with the good of the children foremost in our minds. When they were young, for example, we attended at a small Episcopal congregation with a very orthodox priest, so they would come to appreciate the beauty and order of a traditional form of the mass, while on Wednesday nights we sent them to an Evangelical church that had them memorize Scripture—something sorely lacking in the program of most Episcopal churches.
They are grown now and attend liturgical churches, which they hold to biblical standards, and so partake of their parents' discouragement with "church." But they are holding in there, understanding that they, like their parents, are under divine obligation, and must attend church whether they like it or not. In the meanwhile, allow me to point to a small market niche for doctrinally orthodox churches with classical liturgies and strong Bible training for children and young people. I know they're out there, but alas, they are rare.
S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.