Looking up from the Welcome Table where I was helping families get signed in for our Unitarian Universalist youth programs, I confirmed that my own boys were sitting on two chairs across the room. In front of a large window, Baxter was reading a book and Lyle appeared to be vacillating between Baxter-watching and other-people-watching.
At ten o'clock, as the pastor prepared to enter the sanctuary, he banged the - well, now, what is it? a gong? a cymbal? - Cara? Matt? Tanya? Somebody help me out here. Regardless of the source of the sound, the kids and I are supposed to stay at the table a few extra minutes to help sign in any late-comers before heading in for the service ourselves.
After a moment I looked up again to check on the boys and they were -- gone.
I caught just a glimpse of the two of them holding hands, walking into the church sanctuary. By themselves. Amazed, I watched. My two little boys marched confidently down the center aisle. Baxter led the way into a row of his choosing, up near the front. Lyle pulled himself up onto a chair and sat next to him. Although they were fine without me, someone covered for me at the table so that I could join them. By the time I reached them they were both flipping through their hymnals, Baxter looking for his favorite "Spirit of Life" hymn and Lyle hoping that perhaps this week they had finally added some pictures to it.
As the service began with a trio singing "Dona Nobis Pacem", I was flooded with a feeling of enormous gratitude. Gratitude for this place, where my children feel so at home, so at ease. This is what I wanted for them to get from a church - another environment in their lives that is filled with people and events that make them feel safe and at home. Even when I'm not there.