Now that I have kids in primary, I find myself falling into the same trap that I’ve ridiculed in the past: when I want my kids to be quiet in church, I don’t say “be quiet!” Instead, I say, “be reverent,” as though the two were the same thing. Often times, being reverent means, in part, being quiet. After reading a story in the newspaper about an autistic boy who was kicked out of church, and the judge that upheld it, I began to think more about what it might mean for my own kids to be reverent.
So basically, this 13 year old boy is severely autistic, which just means he’s somewhat disruptive – drooling, spitting, making loud noises, etc – during church services. I’ll say no more about the story; I do not wish to place a judgment on the parents of the child, the parishioners of the church, nor the judge. But the question came up for me: what role should silence play in reverence in a case like this?
Often when I think of reverence, silence plays a part so that I can meditate on my relationship with God. I think of the sacrament in particular, where we are supposed to silently consider “that past week” and quietly meditate on the Savior while the sacrament is passed. (I spend most of that time quietly trying to keep my kids quiet so that everyone else can quietly meditate…) I imagine many in the congregation were concerned about this very thing: how can I worship God in my heart with all that noise coming from the back?
We know that reverence is more than just silence. But what should it entail when it comes to noisy members of the congregation, such as this autistic boy? Here’s what I think: Christ says that when we succor the needy, we are doing it unto him; King Benjamin said that when we are in the service of others, we are in the service of God. If we take these two seriously, then our relationship with those noisy members of our congregation is our relationship with God. So if we come to church to reverence God (or to worship him with reverence), then it seems to me that we ought to be about reverencing those around us, including the noisy autistic boy in the back.
I don’t know what this all means; maybe someone else does?