Last week we started asking the question of where to sit when we come to Mass. We began to see that the parish centre can provide us with both convenience and challenges when it comes to finding everyone a place to sit.
Obviously, the parish centre provides essential extra seating space for when the church itself simply cannot hold everyone. Liturgies such as the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and our Christmas Masses are examples.
Parents can also find the parish centre useful, especially if they have babies or very young children who may become unsettled. If parents are concerned that other members of the assembly are being disturbed, they can take their child to the parish centre to try and settle them, while still being able to follow what’s happening in the Mass.
Sometimes, however, we have parents who choose to use the parish centre all the time. Some of these parents do so because they feel they can allow their child more freedom without disturbing those in the church. Unfortunately, what can sometimes result is a parish centre that more closely resembles a playground; children running and yelling around the place as Mass continues in the church. This was never the intention we had for the parish centre when we built it.
One can only be left to wonder how anyone, adult or child, can possible manage to concentrate on engaging in the liturgy in such an environment. I’m sure every parent who comes to Mass wants to help their children to celebrate as a member of our community. This is particularly difficult when they sit constantly in the parish centre, where it’s difficult for them to hear and even harder for them to see what’s happening. The best seating position for children, therefore, is as close to the front of the church as possible. They will also learn from the example of everyone around them how they are expected to behave in a church.
Finally, all of us need to be hospitable towards children being in the church and expect children to be children. A little noise and restlessness is to be expected. Remember that through baptism, these children have as much right to be in the church as we do. What’s more, if we lay on the guilt trip and drive young children and parents out of the church, they may never come back. And then our Church has a very bleak future indeed.