‘Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’ Matthew 18:2-6.
Children can offer a lot to the church experience. Their lively minds don’t always adhere well to the usual responses and practices that are the result of years of expectation and conditioning in adults. But their honesty and unpredictability can provide much-needed relief from the monotony of rituals performed week after week. When words seem old and tired to those who’ve heard them a million times, a child’s fresh understanding might make us think anew.
Importantly, their questioning reminds us that we don’t know all the answers.
This image, taken at a Robinvale Uniting Church service, is cute yet meaningful. The children are either smirking or caught mid-laughter but it’s obvious that the smiles and joy come from a love for the little girl reciting a memorised Bible verse into the microphone.
In traditional Tongan and Samoan culture, the second Sunday in October (originally the first Sunday in May) is ‘White Sunday’ – a day to acknowledge and celebrate children, who dress in white for the occasion. Robinvale, a small town in Victoria’s north-west, seems a world away from such customs. But with 13.3 per cent of the town’s population speaking Tongan as their first language, traditions like these have become a part of the town’s vibrant multi-cultural character.
At Robinvale Uniting Church this means not only do the children wear white with traditional dress such as grass skirts on White Sunday, they also run church. The youth group, with help from the Sunday school, provide the usual elements of a service such as prayers, songs and Bible readings. They also perform Christian-themed plays the children have written themselves.
The theology of child, which places children in the midst of worship, reinforces a sense of value and benefits the church community as a whole.
In our multi-cultural society, children of all cultures and backgrounds need nurturing. Robinvale Uniting Church knows this all too well, with the White Sunday service being an annual tradition for more than a decade.