Sunday, August 3, 2014

All Age Service

This morning I was at Histon Baptist Church for a family service.  Why the need to post anything about that?  Over the years I have been to tens of these and even tried to lead some myself.  There are obvious challenges when all ages are present, especially when the very young wander freely and expressively. To capture and hold a congregation, with ages from a few months to 80's plus, sharing gospel news in ways that do not patronize children nor irritate adults, is an art that very few of us have.
But, today, the speaker was John Hardwick who happens to be a member of the church. His web-site spells out his gifting as author, song writer, creative communicator.  As someone who specializes in children's work he was clearly on their wavelength, but what thrilled me was the contagion of his worship leading.   Several things hit me:
  • song writing, often based directly on Scripture verses,  combining words and actions in such lively and authentic ways.  Leading with the guitar he engaged all age groups.  One long-standing Anglican said to me afterwards: "It couldn't have been more different from our early morning traditional liturgy.  But I loved it - it was real.'  How refreshing to be able to say that. 
  • memorable communication - telling good news can be so hackneyed and sometimes (especially when children are present) trivialized.  Here was thoughtful, energetic (oh yes), very creative communication which involved children, juggling, flags and plenty of interspersed music.  He presented the wonder of the 'biggest family on earth'.  His 5 'P's' were clear: Peter, Pentecost, Paul, Philip and....People, when he had the whole church on its feet as we each in turn shook hands with two people. 
  • love for children - it is obvious how the love of God motivated John and especially focused  his skill to excite children about Jesus. Afterwards, we spoke and he commented sadly about some church congregations where children are never addressed.  No one should ever underestimate the power of children to learn and to share the gospel.
John may be bemused that I was stirred to write this.  He has many commendations on his web-site and certainly doesn't need mine. But what struck me was the joy I experienced in worship today.  Yes, it was noisy.  Yes, there were songs I didn't know.  Yes, I felt awkward because actions don't come easily to me (and I was not alone).  But when you share in all-age worship like that you do participate in something not found anywhere else on our planet.  Truly..the biggest family on earth.

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