Christopher generously urged me to post my thoughts, so I posted them to the thread under the original post, and here they are, in a more edited and expanded form:
Who is to pay the "cost" of attending late-night masses: the children who get bored and difficult, or the parents who force them to sit still through the midnight service?
While I tend to agree with Brother Tom's general idea (Christianity costs something) I disagree about where he directs this concern, particularly at children.
My son this year gave up two Sunday early afternoons to practice being a shepherd for our 4 p.m. Christmas Eve pageant. He learned more about the Christmas story and the joy and preparation that comes with it, I am sure, with other children, re-telling the story, and then sharing in Eucharist, than in only sitting. . . fatigued. . through a much later and less frenetic (for a four-year-old) Christmas Eve service.
This past Sunday, the "Low Sunday" after Christmas no less, a neighbor who recently began coming with her two children was smiling with delight following our 10 a.m. worship. She had e-mailed me about halfway through Advent asking if she might bring her children to join in the pageant rehearsals, already under way. I said, "Of course!" "They've been back every regular worship since.
This morning, her 8-year-old showed me a drawing of people in worship with, "yay church!" written all over it. He was beaming ear to ear. I was stunned, as this was particularly surprising in a town, county, and region of the country that is known for its militant secularism.
He said he insists on coming every week now. His mother nodded and admitted her children are the driving reason she makes provision each Sunday for church.
I don't think it's always true that adults need to teach children about sacrificing to attend church. Quite the reverse may well also be true - perhaps more so!
More broadly, I am not entirely sure "cost" is appropriate as a theological premise or a spiritual discipline, particularly when it comes to joining actively in the worship and mission of the Body of Christ. I think it might be more compelling to argue that God's desire is that we give up mammon for grace, "bread and circuses" for the true bread which came down from heaven -- not because the "sacrifice" builds "character" -- but because the latter truly nourishes us and our neighbors as people made in the image of the Divine. Mammon, constructed as it can be upon violence and greed more often will leave us empty and alone, especially if it is central in our lives.While I eschew church consumerism, if our people are bored or feel truly unfed or malnourished by "church," that is partly our responsibility as leaders. Grace is not being served. Uninspired, irrelevant, insipid, or age-inappropriate liturgy can be deadly to the spirit of the People of God. We do well to take this seriously; we do worse to wag our fingers when people, most of all our children, express boredom at it. I've written more on this in a slightly different context.At Church of Our Saviour, we mix it up with Godly Play, a new fourth- and fifth- grade program called "Cloud of Witnesses," designed in large part by our Associate Rector, Este Gardner Cantor, a dynamic Middle School program, a Youth Group, and Adult forums, as well as our regular Rite I, Rite II, and Rite Something liturgies.If people (from infants to adults) attend regularly, they get exposure to just about everything. Regardless of where they most feel at home worshipping and encountering God in our community, they hear proclaimed the transformative Gospel of Christ with an authentic passion. I believe that is what is key here, far and away from forcing tired children to sit still on one of the most exciting nights of the year.