When we come to a baptism, we entrust the parents of the child being baptized with a list of responsibilities; things like bringing them to worship and holy communion, teaching them the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. The words of the liturgy then say that we do these things, “…so that your children may learn to trust God.”
This is our work as the church; to teach people how to trust God; which means we have to start with teaching people how to trust which means we ourselves need to know a thing or two about trust.
One of earliest ways that a baby learns that the world is a trustworthy place is that when they call, their caregiver responds appropriately and compassionately. This early caregiving task is so critical, therefore in doing the work of the church – of teaching children how to trust from their first breath, which is the muscle they are going to need in order to trust God. But these caregivers need communities standing behind them who see the value in what they are doing if they are going to succeed.
A nursing mother is in high demand to meet the needs of a child who (in the beginning) has a stomach the size of a marble. Feedings come often, sleep is interrupted, all while the mother’s body is undergoing a tremendous shift in hormones and no matter the nature of the birth, requires rest and healing. This new person not only creates a seismic shift in the mother’s body but also within the entire family as the oldest children find themselves dethroned, and marriages contract and expand like an accordion to meet the needs of these little people.
This spring our assembly wrestled with the question of how much time we need to be giving our rostered leaders for parental leave. Until this year, the recommendation was 6 weeks, which is grossly inadequate. On the floor of our assembly person after person (mostly mothers) came forward to speak of the value of longer parental leave. Pastors who have wrestled with postpartum depression and anxiety, pastors thinking about leaving ministry when their babies were born, pastors whose early days with their babies were filled with fear and worry, not trust! Which is crazy, if trust is the foundation of everything we do as the church!
As I sat there watching this conversation unfold, I felt immense gratitude for the foresight of St. Peter’s – for the call committee and council who honored my request for a longer maternity leave, for everyone who stepped up in the last 14 weeks and gave of themselves, for Brenda and Janine and all who worked to get St. Peter’s enrolled in State Disability Insurance (which paid for my leave) before I ever came along.
For me, these past 14 weeks were not a time apart from the work of the church. They were the work of the church, teaching my baby the fundamentals of trust so that he might have a fighting chance of learning to trust God as he grows in faith. I could only do that because you are a community that saw the value in this time of caring for the newest humans among us! Thank you for being the exemplary congregation that you are! Thank you for the gift you gave my family! I am thrilled to be back among you as together we figure out how to teach our children how to trust! Oh that every young parent had a community like you behind them!