Back before children’s church

Published 9:13 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

At one time, I could tell you how many small orange lights made up the crosses on the light fixtures at Roebuck Park Baptist Church in Birmingham.

I could also tell you how many panes were in each stained-glass window, down to the number of red, blue, yellow or green panels.

And, I could tell you how many wooden panels made up the arched ceiling.

This knowledge wasn’t due to any math obsession but rather a young child’s attempts to occupy her time during what seemed, at least at the time, to be a long, boring sermon.

Back when I was growing up, there was no such thing as Children’s Church. No one gave us crayons and coloring pages as we walked in the door or took us to a separate room with snacks and puppet shows.

I don’t think people were concerned with making church entertaining to young children. Our options were two: sit quietly or go to sleep.

After age four, my parents weren’t big on letting us nap through church, so this meant we had to occupy ourselves in other ways.

Doodling on the bulletin worked for a while, at least until my brother and I got into a fight over a heated game of tic-tac-toe.

This usually brought a sharp look from my mother and a confiscation of the doodling pen.

Then, I resorted to looking up interesting words in the Bible. I remember giggling that the Bible had a “bad” word in it, at least as it referred to a donkey’s jawbone.

That prompted a giggle or two.

Since there’s only so many titillating words you can look up in the Bible, I then turned to the counting. Granted, this wasn’t exciting either, but it did kill some time.

By this point, the sermon was usually complete and, since I enjoyed the singing, my much-younger self had made it through another service.

The strange thing is, I loved going to church as a child. I may not have understood all the big words or lofty concepts, but even as a young child, I knew it was a special place.

And that brings me up to last weekend. A young boy sitting behind me leaned over to his mother and whispered rather loudly. “Mom, why is there so much praying at church?”

I smiled. I bet if you ask that boy, he can tell you the number of lights on the ceiling of the church.

I may have to ask.

– Leada Gore is publisher and editor of The Hartselle Enquirer. Her column appears each Wednesday.