I participated in leading worship at Northside Presbyterian Church yesterday, a congregation that always has an extended period of time for children in the midst of their worship service. It’s called Children’s Storytime, and it’s typically interactive in some way. Yesterday, this ended up being true in a playful way, and it impacted the service over all. That’s because Northside Presbyterian Church met a new friend — one, particular stinkbug.
While sitting on the floor with the kids, I asked them if they noticed anything different about the sanctuary. They did. The chairs were facing a different direction, and the color purple was displayed in a few places. I was wearing a purple stole myself, and I asked the kids if they wanted to each put it on. “We’re all ministers,” I said.
Then I asked the kids if they knew why some of these things had changed. “It’s Lent!” I answered. I went on to talk about seasons. I asked about the seasons we typically have outside, and then I shared that the church has seasons too.
“You know, on may way here, I saw that some of the snow has melted, and I could see the grass. Have you ever had winters — or maybe certain parts of the winter — where the snow is so big that you don’t see grass for a long time?”
“Yeah,” they said.
“Sometimes, it can feel like we won’t ever see the grass again. But we will. It’s always there. You know, a lot changes inside our church sanctuary with church seasons, but one thing is always the same. We just find ways different ways of saying it. It’s that God loves us, all the time, no matter what. And we’re invited to love each other, all the time, no matter what.”
And that’s when a five year old said,
“Hey, guess what? There’s a stinkbug!”
Sure enough, there was a stinkbug crawling up the leg of the chair next to us.
“Should we tell this stinkbug that God loves stinkbugs? All the time?” I asked.
“I’m gonna tell him that it’s Lent!” the five year old said.
“IT’S LENT!” he said enthusiastically, though it was more of a loud whisper than a yell.
Ah, a chance to practice proclamation playfully! We’re all ministers after all.
After this time together, the kids went downstairs, and service took a serious turn as we addressed last week’s gun violence. But, believe it or not, we weren’t finished with the spontaneity of this particular stinkbug.
Whenever we prepare to receive an offering, in addition to giving resources in the moment, I always invite people to meditate on how they feel called to offer themselves this week in a sense of calling. I said something like that before we passed the plates. Then the music started.
After the offering was received, we all sang the Doxology, and I prayed in front of the person who held the offering plates. As soon as that was finished though, she then turned around and said to everyone. “I have to tell you this. The stinkbug is in the offering plate.”
Sure enough, the stinkbug was in there, crawling through the money, becoming an offering.
Then, as the service was ending, I gave a benediction while the stinkbug was walked around the rim of the offering plate. These are the kinds of experiences you can never plan. I’m so grateful for spontaneity! I’m so grateful that proclamation can start with play.