Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Of families with young children in church

Church is not a form of meditation where everything is put in perfect order and where people are seeking the oblivion of a Liturgy that passes them by as if in an unremarkable and inoffensive moment. I think some parishioners are just as happy to have the Liturgy go smoothly so they can tune out as there are those that care about the "good order" of a service bringing them closer to God.

Children are not little adults who simply haven't read enough Robert's Rules of Order. They are children with children's brains and children's energy levels. You could no more make a one-year-old understand why not making noise so it can echo in church is a bad idea as explain to him that at parish council meetings that you can't bring up new business if you haven't read the minutes from the previous meeting first.

Children are going to make noise. That's the unavoidable truth. Another unavoidable truth is that a parent has no idea when the child is going to make noise or sprint down the aisle or barbed wire crawl through pews or throw a book at a sibling. None. As such, unkind looks at those particular moments have less to do with "keeping that kid in line" as it does with belief in the gift of prognostication.

It is not so much that the child has done whatever action, but how the parent responds. Is your child wailing for 5 minutes? Has he kicked his sister who is now loudly protesting the supposedly unprovoked attack? It is at this point that parents need to put a little space between their disruptive child and the nave. Walking around and looking at icons, going to the narthex for a short reset, etc. are all reasonable ways to respond.

I have seen parents bring in entire play sets and plonk them down on the floor. I have seen parents feed their children cheerios constantly until time to receive communion. I have seen parents who have given up entirely and just go directly to the cry room for the entirety of the service. None of those are acceptable solutions to my mind, but they do highlight just how much parents value church and at the same time fear the sort of looks described in this article.

It is obvious that we are creatures of habit. Going to church on Sundays is one such habit. The belief that parents should not come to church until their child is a little angel is inviting a family to quit going to church. As if to say, "Would you rather receive this treatment from judgmental old ladies or would you rather get up late, have a leisurely brunch somewhere, sip mimosas, and have someone else clean up the mess under the high chair after you have left?" What a hard decision.

We are not called to "put up" with people who annoy us; whether they be smelly full-diapered bairns or scowl-faced crones. We are called to find Christ in everyone and to present Christ to everyone by our actions. How can you love your enemies if you hate your parish's own baby?

So at church pray without judgement for that struggling mother and for that obviously perturbed parishioner staring daggers at them. They both need it. And so do you.

(Basilica) - “Please ignore people’s eyes rolling and heads turning when your children are ‘playing up’ inside the house of God. I want you to know that they are always welcome,” says Fr Michael Psaromatis.

When Adelaide-based Greek Orthodox priest, Father Michael Psaromatis, posted a heartfelt message to his parishioners last Friday letting them know that he is fully supportive and perfectly aware of their struggles and efforts to bring their children to church, he never anticipated that within minutes parishioners from all over Australia would take to social media to express their gratitude towards his thoughtful gesture, Neos Kosmos reports.

“I am aware when you become red-faced, breaking out into sweats when your children start fidgeting and fussing inside the church, and I want you to know, that I have so much respect and admiration on how much you try to keep them quiet and calm during the church service,” wrote father Michael, aged 34, and one of the youngest, most forward-thinking priests in Adelaide.

“I admire how you prepared you are when you come in, how hard you try and chase them down the aisle to nullify their noise and movements and I want you to know that I also feel your pain when I see those heads that turn in your direction and the eyes that roll, indicating a shameful dismay at the fact that you cannot keep your children under control and quiet when all you are doing is trying to participate in the Liturgy and hear the sermon.”

Father Michael’s post sent a clear message to the rest of the parishioners to be less judgemental and more supportive towards young families who try and attend church services.

“As a priest, I experience the inner bliss of distributing Holy Communion to little children, who are more worthy than all of us to approach the chalice of life. Your children teach me and us all with their innocence, that we need to become like them to inherit the Kingdom of God so let’s all take a moment to appreciate how blessed we are to have the young families and their children with us, actively participating in your and our struggle on the journey to the Kingdom of God. A struggle that includes seeing infants, toddlers, young children, whose parents are willing to brave the discomfort, inconvenience and stress of bringing them into Church, even if it seems completely futile.”

In his heartfelt message, the son of one of the longest-serving priests of Adelaide, paid special tribute to the majority of his parishioners who are there to support the young parents and families and seek to assist where they can, sometimes simply by smiling at the young parents in an attempt to provide strength and courage to keep on going.

“There are those of course who seem nervous, not because they are annoyed, but because they want you to feel at peace but aren’t sure how to physically help and so, proceed to pray for your family,” says father Michael pleading with young parents to build the strength and courage and continue to bring their children to Church.
“Young families are our future,” he concluded, adding that “if you do not hear crying, the church is dying.”

Postive reactions

Social media users have since shared the priests message, congratulating him on having the courage to speak up about a matter that’s close to most Greek Orthodox young parents’ hearts.

“I am the first to admit that I find it hard to be in church with my kids. I haven’t included my son for just this reason. It’s nice to know that our Fathers know we try. I’ve heard the clicks of tongues, the stares and the words spoken in judgement and it’s hard,” wrote a mother of three.

“Before I was Orthodox and attended a church service where any noise of children caused horror, I often wondered; how can you possibly expect these children to be faithful in worship when they are adults if you refuse to welcome them as children,” wrote another user who recently joined the Greek Orthodox religion.

“The children in church are a real blessing. We learn so much from them. No matter if they cry, run around or make noise. Seeing them kiss the icons, receive holy communion and witnessing the sheer joy in their faces is inspirational,” wrote another.

“I needed this. It’s been so hard trying to take my newborn and his two-year-old brother to church service on a Sunday morning, but I really want to go so please don’t judge me. I am only trying,” wrote a young mother.

“We are so blessed to have you as our spiritual guide and thank you for making us feel welcome despite the troubles our son might be causing inside your church from time to time,” wrote the father of a young autistic boy.


  1. Right on! I was so happy to see so many children in church last summer even though it was mid-summer and there was no Sunday School after church. We have a growing number of committed parents

  2. Ever since I first entered an Orthodox Church i was charmed by the presence of children. I now recognize the harried mother’s there as paragons of ascesis.

  3. "A Church that cannot stand the crying of children is not a church."
    St. John Maximovitch