October 30, 2014
A Friendly Space for Children
Increasingly, parents of young children want to maximize their time with their children on the weekend. Often the children are in daycare or preschool because both parents work. We are delighted to have a number of couples with small children in church, and often these parents want the children to stay in church with them, not in a nursery or other separate area. For years our Cathedral of the Incarnation, Memorial Church in Bolton Hill, and a number of other churches in the Diocese have developed special “child-friendly” spaces in the church. Such spaces are open, include carpeting on the floor, have child sized chairs and a table, as well as chairs and even a rocking chair for adults.
Available in such spaces are coloring books, crayons, quiet toys, and children’s books. Both the parents and the children can see and hear what is going on in the service, yet the space is clearly designed to make children and their parents feel more comfortable in church.
With this in mind, Cristina and I have worked with the Buildings and Grounds Committee and designed a plan. Two pews at the back left side (as you look at the altar) of the south transept will be removed to create a child-friendly space. Few if any parishioners ever sit in these pews, yet it has a clear view of the pulpit and altar area. This will be a temporary arrangement while we evaluate if this space is used and if it works as well as we hope. We will have a nice rug on the floor for comfy sitting, a table and chairs, and things to keep smaller children occupied. A parent should accompany any child using this space—seating for the parent will also be provided. No parents or children will be asked or expected to sit in this space—all persons attending are welcome to sit wherever they wish. We do encourage parents with smaller children to try this area out to see if it appeals to their child as well as themselves.
I wish we had had such a space when my children were young. In the summers we attended a church, keeping our pre-school children with us in the pew (there was no alternative). I think that church had some good preaching and good music, but I frankly don’t remember anything about our experiences there except having to police our two very active kids so that they were a minimal distraction to worshippers around us. Neither our kids nor Nancy and me got much out of those services; our kids clearly hated having to sit more or less still for so long a period.
We are a welcoming parish! The future of our church depends to a high degree on our appeal to younger families. Creating a child friendly space for parents and small children may be an important step in attracting new families. Our new space will be ready for use on November 16th.