Nope, we don't shuffle them off elsewhere...

In the photo above, kids from infants to Kindergarten age are held by choir members even during the middle of Divine Liturgy. Orthodox children are fully participating members of the Orthodox Church. As Nelson Mandela said in May, 1995: "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats it's children."

Infants, Children and Teens

At St. Anthony, our kids - including new-borns and not-yet-borns - are considered just as much a part of the Church Family as are the adults. Remember what Jesus said? "Suffer the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." As Orthodox Christians, we try to do what Jesus asks of us. Sure, children can occasionally be a distraction (Jesus did mention suffering, right?), but we're the adults in the room, and we allow them the grace that is the child's due. Speaking of rooms, we have a soundproof Viewing Room for parents, so if your little one is acting up or you need some privacy with your child, you can take them there and still be part of the Liturgy.

Christ's example informs us that children are especially beloved of God for their innocence and pure hearts (we don't believe they are born sinning and are damned until old enough to say some "sinner's prayer." Rather, for 2000 years, the Orthodox Church has Baptized and Communed children of Orthodox families starting at their early infancy. There is ample historical proof of the practice of infant baptism in the first and following centuries, and 2000 years later we continue this ancient practice.

As children grow in the Church, we teach them to grow in service to the Church. Our kids learn to participate in the heartbeat of the Church - in Altar service, as ushers, and in numerous other ways. Once a month, a "Children's Sermon" is offered by our priest in which the kids all come and sit up front to learn from sermons specifically designed to be understood by and participated in by our beloved youth. We also have a regularly occurring "Ask Abouna"* time where the Children have a chance to speak directly with Father Anthony and ask any questions they might have. *("Abouna" is an endearing and also respectful term that simply means "(our) father").

During the Eucharist (Communion), by far the most important part of the Divine Liturgy which comes towards the end of our service, the children who have received Baptism and Chrismation (a.k.a. Confirmation, which typically occurs immediately after Baptism) into the Orthodox Christian faith are the first to line up - our children (including teens) always get "priority treatment." After they have partaken in the Eucharist, they leave just a little bit before the Liturgy ends with our Youth Director and Church School teachers for their age group's Sunday School class or other group activities. We welcome all visiting children to join our children for Sunday School - all kids are always cherished! After Sunday School is over, all the kids rejoin the rest of our Church family for Coffee Hour for juice and lunch in the Fellowship Hall.