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  • Writer's picturejosie

Atrium @ Randolph

A seven year-old's meditation on the Lord's Prayer [slightly edited for clarity:)]: "Porque tuyo es el reino" [For yours is the kingdom] You are more powerful than darkness, and love is more powerful than hatred. God is our king. And he is love itself.

Beginning Sunday, January 23, Incarnation families are easing gently into a new church rhythm at our new Randolph Elementary location. Inspired by the separate-but-together "atrium on the quilts" setup that we enjoyed at #canopychurch, we're going to experiment with setting up our atrium—which is shorthand for kids space—in the back of our sanctuary.

Atrium will open at 9:30 for ages 3-12. (Parents can join in preservice prayer or, you know, use the restroom by themselves, or even go wild and chat with another adult, before the 10am service!) We'll still have the nursery nook available for families with babies and toddlers.

When church begins at 10am, younger kids can keep working, older kids can join their families or keep working if they'd like. After sharing the Peace—which is a point in the service after the scripture readings and sermon, before communion—we'll restore the materials (AKA clean up!) in time for everyone to return and sit with families for the Eucharistic liturgy.

What's the atrium?

The “atrium” idea that we’ve adopted from Catechesis of the Good Shepherd helps us to think about the physical space and the purpose of a place for children at church. For me, the word atrium conjures up a picture of a beautiful hotel with a glass-ceilinged light-filled ante lobby. The space is protected from the elements yet feels connected to the outdoors, full of greenery and life. It’s a beautiful entryway into (one hopes) a comfortable luxurious hotel stay.

My vision isn’t totally off (though I admit it skews toward excessive luxury. . . I think the spa is off to the right). In the early church, the atrium was that architectural space between the street and the sanctuary—we might visualize a protected courtyard—where the converts or catechumens or new Christians, or those considering becoming Christians, would prepare before fully joining the church.

While we wholeheartedly welcome our children into the communal life of our church, we can think of them as catechumens in an in-between space. I'm looking forward to trying this atrium-in-the-gym set up for many reasons:

  • We enjoyed being all together under the canopies, and I don't want to lose the benefits we reaped from that, particularly the way children built up their stamina for being in church. Our services aren't terribly long anyway, and after church at Randolph, they can run out to the zip line!

  • With ongoing COVID question marks, setting up in the same large space as the service eases the volunteer load for our small congregation. Additionally, holding kids programming in an open, visible place jives well with our child safety policy.

  • We're giving children the ability to choose their work, and to choose (with their families) when they'd like to join in the larger church service. This respects the developmental uniqueness of each child, and acknowledges that an important purpose of catechesis is to equip children to connect with the liturgy.

  • (Finally, don't tell the other adults, but it's good for the rest of the congregation to see what the kids are up to!)

Children have much to teach us about the life of faith, once we slow ourselves down and pay attention. As we try things and gently get adjusted to this season, please send any thoughts, questions, or ideas my way!

~ Josie

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