This past Sunday, I wanted to preach a sermon for my largest church in which I would give a vision for moving forward. At a crucial moment in the sermon, right near the end of it, my daughter Savannah decided to choke on a Cheerio. Of course, it wasn’t her fault, nor was this the first time something like this has happened. She has bumped her head and let out a wail or mummy won’t let her have something and she needs to tell everyone in the congregation about it. Everyone (whether they were paying attention to me or not) then begins to watch Savannah or any other child that something similar has happened to. This also happens when a child is quite happy babbling, but I have more or less learned to tune that out. My main concern is what happens when the child is in some sort of distress. [By the way, in the case I mentioned Savannah quickly recovered with help from mum.]
I remember the story of a minster at a church I used to attend in South Carolina who in a service faced a screaming child. He stopped his sermon, set his eyes on the child and parents (actually, the word used in the telling of this story was ‘glared at’). The mum then got up and took the screaming child out of the sanctuary. The minister, still not preaching, fixed his eyes on the mum and child the whole time until they got out the door. I was horrified to hear this, and vowed I would never do that.
Still, what is the proper response when something like that happens? I am not talking about the response of those in the congregation who believe that children should always be silent and give disapproving looks. There is simply nothing I can do about them, and my answer to them is the same as to any apologetic parents I might have, ‘I would much rather have the sound of children in the church than a silent church and think our church is not welcoming children.’ My question is about what to do in the middle of the sermon. If I say nothing and continue on, I feel as if I am being insensitive (at worst) or at best clueless when no one is looking at me, but at the distressed child. Stopping and expressing some concern typically leaves the parents flustered as it draws even more unwanted attention.
Does anyone else have any advice?