By Jen Gillan
Here is the church, here is the steeple…
…open the doors and see all the people!
This is a rhyme, accompanied by hand motions, that I used to recite when I was a little girl. The hand gestures really bring this idea to life, as you learn to make a church with your fingers and then open them up in such a way, that your wiggling fingers are the people of the church.
Growing up in a Christian home, I remember being taught that the church was really the people that met in the church’s building, but often the way I would hear the adults talk about “church” was in reference to the actual building. And so an innocent children’s rhyme about the church, a steeple, and the people inside of the church made perfect sense to me.
Sometimes I wonder about that idea and how that is affecting us today. I still hear people, including myself, say that “we’re going to church.” “I’ll see you at church.” “Let’s meet at the church.” Or even, something to the effect of, “Now we don’t do that at church.” And so on…
On one hand, we know and teach children and new believers that the church is the people, and on the other hand, we continue to talk – and sometimes believe and act – as though the church is the building.
Perhaps, it’s just as simple as changing our language. Or perhaps a deeper work is needed. A work that convicts us and instills in us that the church not only just a group of people who call themselves Christian, but rather the church is the united community of disciples of Jesus called bear witness to the Kingdom of God. The church is called to be a force of power that pushes up against the powers and principalities of our day and that is so strong, that not even death can stop the church (Matthew 16:18).
Is there a nursery rhyme that helps form this idea in our children’s minds?
Is there a nursery rhyme that shapes our thinking and our actions to actually be the church?
To be the church that lives into the story of Jesus, by sharing meals with the poor and marginalized, healing the sick, and proclaiming good news to the poor. To be the church that lives into its identity of being a reconciling community, learning to listen, repent, confess, forgive, be forgiven, and that is learning to embrace and be embraced by those deemed different from us or considered “other.”
Is there a nursery rhyme that helps all of this to sink in and that sends us out to be little witnesses that become part of a much larger, much more powerful witness to the breaking in and coming reign of God in the world?
I believe there is such a nursery rhyme, if you will, and it is called our corporate worship, “the liturgy after the liturgy,” as our Orthodox family describes it.
What are our modern day nursery rhymes, both for children and adults that send us out to be the church, the church that has left the building?