I think I have recounted to you before a story where I worshipped with my family in a Catholic church the last time I went back to Jakarta. At the very end of the mass, the priest delivered an announcement where he said that on the next coming week parents should bring their children into the mass. He reasoned that children must be integrated into the life of the church as early as possible and hence the participation in the mass at least once a month.
In general, I would say that children are more welcomed in the Catholic church than in the Protestant churches, where usually they would be consigned to Sunday School and not too seldom they are deemed as a distraction to the service as well. The separation is then extended to the youth, as they, too, will have their own service which is separate from the main service.
The problem becomes more complex in a diaspora church like GPBB, as the first language of the children and (many of the) youth is English and not Indonesian. Although I understand that measures have been taken to incorporate more Indonesian to the sessions, it could not replace six other days where they will spend most of their time speaking in English.
The problem was exemplified when the children choir sang a song for the rest of us in the beginning of the Sunday’s service a few weeks ago. In the beginning, of course, because immediately afterwards they were ushered outside and went into their respective Sunday School classes. I found it very sad, though. Why didn’t they continue to participate in the service with their parents? Is it because of that they need to attend their Sunday School classes? If it was so, why wasn’t it canceled for that week so that we could let them together with their parents? Is it because we think that they won’t understand the Indonesian service? Or it is because we think that they will disturb us during the service?
And that’s why I am glad to see the children worshipping together with us for the Good Friday service. It is precisely like the way it is supposed to be. Assuming that we could solve the language barrier problem (which, I perceive, will be the major problem that we will face, as more and more youths can’t “graduate” to the main service), I saw no reason of keeping the children away from our service. We must not ever perceive them as distraction for our “religious” practices. I truly hope that we could incorporate kids more frequently into our service. I mentioned earlier about the problem of our youths who are stuck in the youth service although they have well gone past their age. Partly, and significantly, it is due to language barrier problem, but I guess it is partly due to the fact that we seldom incorporate them from their early age. And this must change.