The Clan gathered last weekend to celebrate the youngest member of the middle tiers 21st. As much as he tried to be the centre of attention, there was a smaller claimer of the crown, the first born great grandchild, also known as my great nephew. This little free range toddler was exploring new environments, people obviously known to his parents and new situations. He bought us all together with his antics, as well as memories of people past or younger versions of those present.
He was all he needed to be, we taught and admired him and he taught us without a formal lesson taking place.
At one point during the Birthday Party he made a break for the waters edge and most of the party surged forward to prevent any disasters. No-one waited to see if someone else was looking after him.
This scenario takes place in many congregations each weekend, our free rangers or wanderer’s (as I dubbed them at Wesley Melbourne, naming them after the Israelites, that left Egypt bound for the promised land) bring congregations together. Allowing them to be taught by and to teach the congregation.
Yes, a toddler can disrupt carefully planned proceedings, squeal or make a noise during an intense moment. They can distract us from ourselves. Show us aspects of our buildings and our way of worship that we wouldn’t have seen without them. They give us new roles and relationships.
A few years ago, one of our newly minted free rangers/wanderers disappeared on her just balanced 2 legs, just as communion was called. Her parents and I frantically searched the internal and external parts of the church enlisting others as we went. All the time she was seated at our minister’s feet waiting patiently for her parents to join her for communion. What a lesson to us all, oh to be so enthusiastic that we toddle quickly to the communion table.
Do you have a free-range population?
Could your congregation learn from a few toddlers amongst it?
Or maybe you’re the parent of a free ranger. Be proud of all that your free ranger brings to a congregation and enjoy their explorations, for it is only after we are familiar with the environment that we can start to learn the expected behaviour of that community.