John D. Pierce

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"Tuesday Afternoon Worship"




My middle-school daughter’s weekly piano lesson at a neighboring United Methodist Church creates a dilemma when I have the rare but enjoyable role of designated chauffeur. Do we go back home briefly, run a quick errand or just stay around the church for 30 minutes or so?

When the latter choice is made, her forced-to-go-along, 8-year-old sister likes to visit either the church playground or, to my surprise, the vacant sanctuary. There she insists that I sit quietly, yet alertly, on the front row while she leads worship all on her own.

Ascending the pulpit with reverence, she invites all children to come forward for an object lesson with whatever item might be within reach. Most recently, it was a ruler. She assured the imaginary children that while many things can be measured, God is so much bigger.

In addition to the children’s time, she leads a couple of hymns, reads a scripture passage and gives a heartfelt, though brief, sermon. (We have to fit the entire service into half an hour, remember. But that is not such a bad idea thinks this pew sitter.)

There is nothing remotely odd to my daughter about this service other than the meeting time and low attendance. When she was born, our family deacon was a woman.

Throughout her young life she has steadily observed women ministers and lay leaders preach, baptize, serve Communion and even manhandle those heavy offering plates up and down the aisles of our Baptist churches.

So in this quiet, mid-week sanctuary, she feels at home. Perhaps she is just “playing church,” but probably no more so than most of us do on the more crowded first day of the week.

And, thank God, thank God, no one is around to erect a roadblock between her and the pulpit. We keep the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and other harmful objects out of her reach.

Of course, she just turned 8 and has a lot of choices ahead. Law, medicine, business, education, art and many more vocational avenues could be well served by her gifts and personality. So there is no need for theology school admission offices to start sending literature anytime soon.

But just in case such a calling should come her way in the future, I pray she will be listening for the still quiet voice of God, not the socially-conditioned ones of those who love to draw lines where God does not.

In the meantime, I will continue enjoying the additional spiritual benefits of occasional Tuesday afternoon worship. Perhaps next time we can work in a brief church conference so I can publicly commend the minister for a job well done.

[This editorial appeared in the October 2006 issue of Baptists Today.]