I am, for those who don’t know me IRL, a minister of the Presbyterian flavor. I’m currently sort of exiled from the pulpit. I work at a theological school surrounded by future ministers of many flavors, but I do not have a flock of my own. There is no pulpit for me right now, and that is a bit sad to me. I do so love pulpits. And flocks. But I’m still a minister, or in the current language a teaching elder. Even without anything in my life that resembles ministry, it’s always what I answer when people ask what I do. I read a lot of God books; go to a lot of God lectures; attend ecumenical worship 3-5 times a week. My kid has an entire shelf of God books, too. I graduated from a pretty fancy theological school, and have done lots of continuing education. I’m a rather fancypants preacher lady with my bobble head-Calvin doll on my bookshelf next to my impressive collection of books by dead white guys.
Selam likes to talk about God, who she mostly calls Big Momma.
But that’s where it ends.
She does not like church. It’s boring. She can’t read so she can’t sing along. She can’t read so she can’t join the prayers. She likes children’s sermons, though those aren’t a regular feature of worship at our church. She colors, snuggles and whines about how much longer until Sunday School starts. (And yes, I do get that and wish that worship were more non-reader friendly.) Weddings? other than the pretty dress, she’s not into it. Fancy divinity school advent services with dancing, singing and candles? eh.
She also does not like saying or singing grace. Except when she does. Every single supper time she asks if she HAS to wait to say grace. Given that we’ve said or sung grace every single supper since she came home, the answer is yes. She sighs and pouts, except for those rare times when she’s in the mood for it.
She’s not a fan of saying prayers before bed, either. “We just prayed at dinner.”
No, Selam is not a fan of anything organized or ritualized. Fair enough. We still do these things, just like we still take medicine that she doesn’t like, and still make beds when she finds that pointless. It’s my job to model the patterns of Western Christian life for her. When she’s older she can make her choices to accept or reject it, but those choices will be made after serious exposure and modeling. I hope she comes to love church. I hope someday she wants to give thanks and to pray for those who are suffering.I hope she wants to give of herself to the poor and oppressed. I can’t legislate that, though.
In the meantime, when you ask Selam who her favorite friend is, she says “all of them.” If you ask her about inviting someone over for a playdate, she wants to invite the whole class. Two or three kids have been very, very mean to her this year. She still counts them as friends. “They are good in their hearts, Mommy.” A few kids in her class have some behaviors that I suspect are just symptomatic of a diagnosis of some kind. Some kids are clearly nervous about these children–they physically shy away from them in the classroom. She still wants to play with them. There’s one little guy that she sits next to nearly every day in morning meeting. “Nobody likes to sit with him, Mommy, because his spit slides down his mouth.” “Oh, but you’re okay with that?” “I just bring tissues to give him so I don’t have to touch spit but can still be his friend.” Her teachers report that Selam is the self-appointed class comforter. She goes to children who are crying and offers a hand to hold. She tells me that she’s not supposed to hold hands with kids who are on the think and come back chair, even if they are crying, which is really hard to for her to do.
On Saturday, we had a playdate with a child I’d not previously met and her mother who I know only slightly. The mothers worried about how to introduce the girls. Within five minutes of meeting, they were holding hands and jumping in a circle. Ten minutes after meeting, Selam asked me “what’s her name again?”
Selam does like Sunday School. She likes crafts and stories about Big Momma and Jesus. I’m puzzled, though, by them calling the program the Christian Education program. It seems to me that if it were a program to teach children how to be Christian, it might be easier to recruit Selam and her fellow kindergartners to teach it rather than take it.
I may know a lot about the Bible, and I remember to say grace.
But Selam can run circles around me in the category of how to live as a Christian.