There are accepted rules when it comes to being Protestant.
The host is crackers and grape juice, which leaves Protestants of today worrying about the number of carbs they’re taking in on Sunday morning.
At some point, usually near the end of the service, someone will pass a plate down your pew. You’re supposed to put money in it. Just picture yourself at a party in college although nobody’s going to return with a fresh keg.
You’re supposed to sit quietly, unless it’s time to sing, then it’s acceptable to mumble because there are plenty of people who’ll sing over you, just like in elementary school.
And children get their own special sermon at the front of the sanctuary, during which they sit looking at the back of the sanctuary to see if their parents are watching.
This is the Boy’s favorite part of the service. He loves to wave at us.
“Would the children like to come forward?” the preacher asked.
A few children, pushed into the aisles by their parents, ventured forward. The Boy sprinted. He’d already sat still 10 whole minutes.
But something unexpected happened; the Girl squirmed out of my wife’s arms.
“I wann go, too,” she said.
What? She’d never asked to go to the children’s sermon before. She’d always been content to color, practice saying Daddy’s special “football words,” or sit in the nursery and win animal crackers off the other toddlers at craps.
But the children’s sermon? She’s only two. The Boy’s four, he can handle the responsibility of sitting on steps quietly and waving. He also has the advantage of never pulling a skirt over his head.
“Are you sure?” my wife asked.
“Uh huh,” the Girl said and we let her follow her brother to the front.
There’s something about a pretty little girl in a pink dress and ponytail that doesn’t scream, “I’ll age you prematurely,” but my wife and I are no longer fooled.
The Girl walked in the general direction of the children’s sermon and stopped.
“She’s not going up there,” my wife whispered.
She was right.
The Girl turned, looked at us, grinned, and started weaving her way through the empty rows of pews that always dominate the front of Protestant church services. Muffled laughter ran through the congregation, not necessarily because this was cute – it was – but because everyone knew it embarrassed the heck out of us.
“When she comes close enough,” my wife said, “I’m going to grab her.”
The Girl crept closer. My wife watched her like a lion stalking a gazelle. Three feet away she looked at my wife, turned and skittered back down the aisle.
“Don’t look her in the eyes,” my wife said. “She’s like a wild animal. If she knows we’re looking at her, she won’t get close to us.”
So we employed the deer in the forest “if I can’t see it, it can’t see me” technique and my wife finally caught her. Yes, the Child Running Loose in the Sanctuary Routine is one of the accepted rules of being a Protestant. And it’s cute, as long as the dress stays below her head.
Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt
You can order Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at amazon.com.