My wife, the kids and I went to the Maundy Thursday service at our church last night. First the good. The music was beautiful and moving. I was one of several people who read some scripture during the service and I managed to get through without mispronouncing anything or stumbling too bad over what I read. We had communion via the intinction method. While still not what I'd fully like communion to be, I prefer intinction much more than the usual way we do communion. (For a slightly longer take on my problem with the way we do communion, see here.)
Now the bad. The church was maybe a third full. (And that might be a generous estimate.) And, other than my two kids, there was only one child present. I asked a friend of mine who was also reading one of the lessons where his wife and kids were. He told me that one of our elders had made it clear to him that this wasn't a service for children. As you might imagine, this didn't sit real well with him. He said he wouldn't have come either if he hadn't already committed to read scripture during the service. Sigh. What a sad commentary on our church. We say we want to grow and everybody says they want more young families but here we are telling one of our most active young couples that their kids aren't welcome on one of the holiest nights of the year.
I contrast this with my experience last year on Maundy Thursday. The kids were on Spring Break from school and my wife took the kids to the mountains with her mother. I was being a bachelor and found myself in Charlotte that evening. Sort of on a whim, I went by St. Patrick Cathedral to see if I was near in time to their service. I was, so I went in. The service was beautiful. The main difference I noticed was that the church was almost full and there were tons of kids there. This made for some noise and some distraction, but I'd sure take that any day over the tomb like atmosphere at our mostly empty church last night.
I understand that kids are going to make some noise. And the more kids you have at church the less likely you are to have a lot of silence for contemplation. And, I know I heard more of the beautiful music last night than I did last year in Charlotte. But it seems to me we have to decide what is important to us. My desire for quiet contemplation isn't as important as having children active and participating in the life of our church.
I don't know what the future holds for me, and I'm not sure that the Catholic Church is the answer, but I've got to make a change at some point. I felt like I was in a dying church last night. It was 100% white, probably 75% over 50 and at most 30% full.
Sorry this post was so depressing, but hopefully, I'll be better by Easter morning. In the meantime, prayers for me and my family and our church are appreciated.