5 Reasons You Need to Be in Worship: A Letter to My Daughter

Worshiping Together

Worshiping Together

Dear 3-year-old-girl-of-mine,

I took your curly headed, rainbow-glitter sandaled, stuffed animal toting self to worship on Sunday. We sat in the first pew because that’s where you wanted to sit, and it helps keep you close to the action. You come to church almost every Sunday, but you very rarely come to worship. Your Mommy and Daddy are both pastors, and so we are usually busy. We can’t be there to sit with you and sing with you and pray with you and answer your questions, so you’ve been staying in the nursery with your little brother, but that’s going to change.

You know a lot of important things about church: you know that it’s fun and has lots of friends – some younger than you and some older, some much older; you know that you are loved by all your church friends; you know it’s a place to learn about God; you know it has a great playground, beautiful flowers, and a wonderful garden full of food; you know that it is safe; you know that it’s your church, but it’s also my church and other people’s church and God’s church, so we call it our church.

But you don’t know a lot about our traditional worship, because you aren’t there. I’m going to change that. Here are 5 reasons why:

5) Because of the music. Where else can a child – or anyone for that matter – hear piano and choral music – classical and contemporary – performed excellently not for the glory of self but for the glory of God? Music offered as an act of worship lifts your soul and brings you into the presence of God. You love the music. You love it so much that you want to sit in the front of the sanctuary so you can be as close as possible to the musicians, so you can watch and worship with rapt attention.

4) Because of the singing. You aren’t sure about the singing. You did not want to stand, and so we sat with the hymnal and I tried to sing loud so you could hear my voice. I worry that you are timid about singing, and church is a great place to find your voice. When the sanctuary is full of song – the piano playing, the many voices of the gathered congregation lifted in praise – you can make a joyful noise as part of the whole. You don’t have to worry what others will think. You don’t have to worry if you are singing the right melody or the right words, you can just sing.

3) Because of the prayers. We pray before meals and before bed, sweet memorized prayers that are so important in childhood, but you need to know there are many ways to pray. You need to hear prayers that use some words you understand and some words you don’t. You need to hear prayers from me and also your dear friends and mentors leading worship. You also need to hear the prayers we all say together, even if you can’t read along yet, because they speak the truth about us and about God. You know that God is good and loving and forgiving. You know that sometimes you make a mistake and then you are forgiven. These truths are not new to you, but you need to know that they are true to everyone. We praise God together. We confess together. We receive forgiveness together. Because we all need it.

2) Because you want to be there, and you are wanted there. I’m not going to keep you out because it’s inconvenient anymore. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me” and I’m not going to stand in the way of Jesus. But also, the other people in worship want you there. As we walked up the center aisle to that front pew, I watched their faces light up. They were excited to share this experience with you! When you come to worship, you bring your whole self – just like everyone else brings their whole self. You bring innocence, curiosity, and joy. You bring restlessness, shyness, boldness, happiness and sadness. Who you are is important to who we are. You make our worship more complete.

1) Because it’s not about you, it’s about God. So much of our lives revolve around you – from the moment you wake until you go to sleep at night, your life is full of people focused on you, caring for you, teaching you, playing with you. You are the center of your world, and that’s developmentally appropriate. But as you grow into a wider understanding of who you are in the world, I want you to find your center in God. You are old enough to feel the pull of the Divine, to reorient your focus – if just for a moment – to the Perfect Love which casts out all fear. You don’t have to understand the Holy Mystery – in fact, you will never understand it – but you can experience it.

So my darling, we are going to go to worship, and once your little brother gets a little older he is coming too. Get excited!
All my love,

This post is edited from the original post on http://www.covenantpcusa.org/blog in May 2014 after I began bringing my daughter to worship. We are at a new church now http://www.faithpresgso.org She worships with us every week and stays through the entire service. It is a little crazy, but ridiculously wonderful.


Dear church,

I’ve been putting off writing a “good bye letter” for almost 2 months now. I’ve managed to write the letter telling you I’m leaving, and I preached a final sermon. We’ve hugged and talked and shared coffee. We had the most amazing party last Sunday and I felt so loved and so happy, but also really sad.

As we were driving to church, Gracie and I were talking about how much she was “weewee (really) going to miss everybody.” I told her I felt sad about leaving too and she said, “You mean you don’t want to leave our home either?”

Well, no, I don’t want to leave,” I confessed, and then moved quickly to, “but I know that we’re going to make new friends and…

“I KNOW!” She protested, “I KNOW that.  But… I’m sad.”

That’s the thing about sorrow – it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It doesn’t mean we aren’t hopeful or excited. But sadness just hangs out beneath the surface. And every so often, we are engulfed. And that’s okay. Sometimes, we just need to cry and grieve our losses.

At the moment, I’m grieving the loss of this worshipping community – for myself, but particularly for my children. I love the way Gracie dances to the music at Gathering, the way she skips down the halls to find her friends, the joy on her face when I tell her we’re going to church. “My church?” she asks. “Our church,” I reply. I love the way Jake lunges toward Leslie, and Jenny, and Katie, and Amy, and Emma, and Ali, and everyone else who loves him so dearly.

I know they will make new friends and experience God’s love in a new community, but… I’m sad. We love all of you, and we’re leaving, and that breaks my heart.


The Preschool Story Tent

This week, we’ve got more than 130 kids experiencing God’s love in our church. These halls are simply ringing with light and life! For preschool story time, we have the loveliest tent draped in twinkly lights and rainbow gossamer. I’ve been creating a similar space for a few years now, but Natalie Wise and Charlie and Jack Van Aman helped me this year and they took it to the next level. It is so wonderful and beautiful I can’t help but weep. It feels like just the sort of little tabernacle a 4 year old Jesus would create – full of wonder and mystery, snug but still airy, peaceful and exciting at the same time. 

It’s a sanctuary – a place for tears and singing and stories and games, a place for solitude and community. It’s a place where you can be really, really sad and also incredibly happy at the same time. You don’t have to choose. I don’t have to choose.


Dancing (Just look at her face!)

Last Sunday, at the 8:30 service, Gracie turned to me while Scott was singing the prelude and said, “I love this song.” And later, as we sang Love Divine All Loves Excelling, we danced together and the look of joy and love on her face was ever so holy. My heart was singing and breaking at the same time.