This past Thursday we had a somewhat different Chapel Service than we usually do at Gloria Dei Lutheran School of Chicago where I serve as Pastor. Usually, our school chapel is the Office of Matins, which lasts about one half hour. It consists of the Matins Liturgy, two hymns, sometimes a Psalm, the Te Deum Laudamus (or another Canticle), two readings and a brief homily.
This last Thursday, we had a Service of Supplication and Prayer. It was somewhat different. The Service had four rather long readings, a longer homily, and three hymns. We also chanted Psalm 62 as well as one of the Canticles from Lutheran Service Book. The Service was about one hour in length. After the Service, one of our 1st Grade young school children (not a member of our parish) said to me, "That was long and I liked it."
"That was long and I liked it." What an interesting comment from a six or seven year old non-Lutheran little boy about a liturgical Service. I did not ask him what he liked about the Service. I do not really know if he could have articulated what it was about this "long" Service that he liked. But there was something there - something that resonated with this little boy - something that brought forth that comment.
Children are not stupid. Children also naturally resonate with rite and ceremony. We so often treat children as they are stupid and that they cannot possibly "get anything" from rite and ceremony. They can appreciate, understand, and yes, even "like" complex things like a somewhat complex liturgical Service where there is standing, sitting, praying, chanting, listening, speaking and singing. They are, after all, creatures of rite and ceremony. Their entire lives are made up of rite and ceremony. This is true for all of us.
When we treat children as if the only things they can understand and appreciate are those things that are based on entertainment and silliness, as if they are too stupid to understand that which is reverent and even sometimes complex, we do them and the Church a great disservice.
"That was long and I liked it." Yes it was and I am glad you did. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope.