To the Church of the Grey Hair

“But Jesus said, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt. 19:14, KJV).

Pastor Jack poured his heart, soul, sweat and energy into preaching, praying and singing. By the time the benediction was finished, he was exhausted. He moved to the back of the church, shook a few of the parishioners’ hands and then sort of collapsed on the stairs leading to the church basement. He’d just sit there. This meant his head was about the same level as those of the children, who were not at all exhausted but racing up and down the stairs to and from the Sunday school rooms in the basement, to and from the nursery, to and from the washrooms. As the children passed this dominie sitting on the stairs, he’d give them a high-five or a fist-bump and greet them by name. Suffer the little children. 

Three memories
Marinus was the principal at the local school. I was talking to him in his office one day when I noticed my name, my wife’s, and all our children’s names on the white board. “What are those for?” I asked. 

“Oh, I need to be reminded – memory’s not what it used to be – and I’ll be visiting your home soon and want to be able to address everyone by name. I review the names from my whiteboard previous to all my visits.” 

Pastor Dan was doing a family pastoral visit which involved eating supper. One of the children knocked over his bowl of soup. Embarrassed parents, of course. Silence at the sixth hour. Pastor Dan looked around, put his mouth into the puddle of spilled soup and slurped. The parents looked around nervously but the children knew what to do. They also put their mouths down and slurped. Pastor Dan suffered the children and they speak highly of him to this day. 

My brother, Brian, walked outside after the evening worship service. Across the parking lot – just off the church property – stood a small group of young people. Either incense or cigarette smoke arose above the group. Brian walked past the NO SMOKING ON THIS PROPERTY sign and walked towards the young people. They spotted this middle-aged person coming towards them and some stamped out their smokes. Others held them behind their backs. 

“Hey, guys, don’t worry. I’m not here to yell at you. I just wanted to know how things are going with you all. I may not think smoking’s a good idea, but I like smokers. So are any of you guys on the soccer team? The girls’ volleyball team? How is the season shaping up?”

Suffer the smokers. 

Family of all ages
Pastor Carl came up to me, gave me a shoulder-crunching hug and said, “Hello, Saint Curt!” Feeling insecure as many a 14-year-old-with-zits, and spiritually nervous about my standing with God, Pastor Carl’s comment that I truly was part of God’s family lifted my soul. I’ve remembered it for 57 years. Suffer the teenagers.

I was leading a worship service and called up a teenager just before the benediction to help me. I said to Eileen with hand upraised: “And the Lord go with you always.” Then she went down one aisle and I the other. At each row, we shared God’s blessing with the congregation, row upon row. Then we each chose a door and shook hands with the congregants as they left the auditorium. 

Betsey and I live in Quick, B.C., attend a country church with an official membership of 12 – all grey or balding. At our September harvest celebration, there were nine children in the church and 33 people in all. The children sat gravely, or went outside (with an adult) and ran around the fox-and-geese paths we had mowed into the church yard. They zoomed their toy dinky cars up and down the aisle during the sermon (quietly, yes!) and knelt respectfully for a blessing or to receive the Eucharist. As for the congregation’s response? Great was the joy thereof.  In the modern sense of the word, there was no suffering. 

  • Curt Gesch and his wife lead the singing via Zoom for a combined service of small United Church congregations in central B.C. each Sunday morning. In the afternoon, they lead a Friends and Family Zoom worship from their home. If you'd like to join that service, please write Curt at moc.liamg@36hcsegc.

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