Sunday, April 13, 2008

Another one bites the dust...

It has happened.

I have entered a world previously unknown to me.

The world where kid-friendliness matters. Suddenly, I am annoyed when public restrooms don't have baby changing stations, stores don't have enough room to maneuver strollers, and schedules do not allow for proper bed-times.

Today, I had a first in this world-

my first bad church nursery experience.

You see, with us planning on moving to Savannah, we had begun looking for a local church before Jon left. We found one we really love, but I'm not sure the schedule will work with the Post Chapel. There was one other we were quite interested in, so I gave it a chance.

I could go on and on about my experience. The music was great, the style I enjoyed. However, no one said hi to me. Not one person. And it was only about a church of 50 or so, so it's not like I blended in...

I had Sophie with me, as I usually do in church. If she gets fussy (that's a big IF- I have a very well-mannered little girl), I am prompt to take her out- either to the nursery or to the foyer.

Until today.

I was told I HAD to leave her in the nursery. No option. A man came up to me after the music, and said (no "Hello! Glad you could join us!") - simply- "Ma'am, we have a nursery." Despite his stern tone, I smiled and said, "Oh, I know- she'll need to eat soon so I'll take her back then." The pastor was getting up to preach, so I turned back toward the front of the auditorium. "Ma'am, she needs to be in there before the teaching begins."

I was appalled.

She needed to eat, and I was in shock, so I didn't say anything (well, other than an "uuuuh....okkkkk..." muttered under my breath...) . I quickly grabbed our things and went back to the nursery. No. "Went" is the wrong word. Try more "was escorted by two men."

I felt like I was wearing a big scarlet "M" for "Mother" on my chest.

I was led into the nursery, where the two workers barely acknowledged my existence. Quite literally. They didn't even look at me until I had been in there probably 2 or 3 minutes, and even then, they said "hi" and went back to their conversation.

When Sophie was done eating, I had a quandary... I sat there contemplating it while they chatted. Finally, having convinced myself there is one renegade deacon whose life purpose it is to rid the auditorium of minors, I said, "Um... I prefer to keep her with me, but I was, uh, 'strongly encouraged' to bring her back here..."

They informed me in no uncertain terms that I was not to bring my child into the auditorium.

So, with 40 minutes left to the service, I left.

I understand nurseries- but I do not leave my daughter with people I just met. I don't know the church's child care policy, if they do background checks, what training the workers have- and I'm not about to leave my daughter with someone I'm not confident in (though I'm sure these women were great- it wasn't personal).

So, my options were to stay in the nursery and continue to be ignored, or leave.

When I got back out to the car, I cried.

I second-guessed my decision- maybe I should have just gone back into the service with her- they could deal with it. But honestly, at that point I had no desire to be in that building.

I still am in utter disbelief that that happened. Seriously? They told me, a first-time visitor, what I can and cannot do with my child? I mean, I have mixed feelings about kids in the church service- I believe strongly in both age-appropriate teaching AND in teaching kids how to sit quietly in church and the liturgy of my tradition. Either way, that is OUR decision as parents- not yours as someone I've never met. (I do wonder how the situation might have gone down differently had Jon been standing next to me...) Does this church really value family so little that they make visitors feel unwelcome to make sure kids don't disrupt their perfect little service?

I understand some kids are distracting in church. I really do. That's why I take mine out when she just starts getting fidgety and before she ever cries. But again, that decision is up to me.

Suffice it to say I'm not going back.


Rachel said...

Wow, that's crazy. I wouldn't be going back to that church either. I have a major issue with people telling me what to do with my kids. :) Hope the next church you visit is much better.


Monica said...

What a terrible experience. I am shocked that a church would treat someone, especially a first time visitor like that....I probably shouldn't be, but I am.

I have mixed feelings about nurseries and children in church. I agree that it is your decision to make as the mother.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Sara, how awful! Rhonda Vanderwest referred me to your post, thanking me for what I do and what I don't do. I am so sorry they treated you like that! We had a similar experinece when Christiana was little, and I just don't understand church people who value the service more than the people. Its hypocrisy at its worst. I wish I could give you a hug and meet your precious Sophie in person! When are you coming up? Our new building has a cry room too! After reading your post, I'm even more thankful for that. The nursery and the cry room are there to serve our young families, not the other way around. By the way, you did the right thing in leaving. Those people didn't deserve another glimpse of your adorable daughter, let alone be allowed to hold her or make any comments about her or you. You are a wonderful your heart, God uses our "mother's instinct" to guide us as we raise our children. I've learned that when I don't listen to my heart for my kids, I almost always regret it. Don't ever let anyone take away your parental authority. You and Jon are responsible for Sophie and He will give you wisdom and direction as you parent her and love her to pieces. She is so incredibly cute! Well, I've said more than I thought I had to say, so I'll say goodbye for now. One more thing....I love to see babies in church, and often take one in myself. They love the music and I truly believe they are able to worship God and bask in His love...from the mouths of children and INFANTS He has ordained praise! We have a little 10 month old who "sings" along whenever I take him into church. I pray you find a church that embraces young families and understands the value of mothers and babies and realizes both are to be delighted in, not shunned.
Hugs to you and Sophie...
"Miss Tracie"

pattie said...

I am absolutely horrified that the church treated you that way. Jesus must be so sad.

His Servant said...

First let me say. I don't believe that a church should welcome new people in and then mandate you take your child back to the nursery.... However this is an area which is very distracting for others including the pastor whom has spent much time preparing a sermon which he only has a limited time to present. The sad fact is some parents never view their children less than perfect which is the root cause of this issue in churches.
Being a pastor's wife you too may have a different view of this someday. In the same way that you never noticed changing stations in rest rooms.
I am not condoning what happened, I am only saying I can understand how they got to that point. Unfortunately it is a selfish view of ministry and it appears they have lost sight of why they are there. Encouragement would have been a better option for accomplishing their goal of keeping distractions out of the service.

Anonymous said...

My Husband always says don't mess with MAMA Bear! Our church doesn't have nursery staff only a room to retreat to if needed and almost every Sunday the Pastor announces at the pulpit that children are a blessing and we encourage them to be in the service with their parents. A lot of babies do fuss but the congragation and the Pastor are used to the small noises and sometimes loud that it doesn't bother anyone.

Anonymous said...

OK I'm back after stewing about it. I thought I would feel a little better with a good laugh. If I weren't a believer I think I would have stood up stomped real hard on the man's toes and left the church. :-) Now I feel better. Of course the Bible says just thinking about it is a sin too. I guess it is good as done.