Monday, September 23, 2013

Nightmarish Memories of Nursery Hell

My husband was going through some old document files the other day, and found a funny relic of our family: newborn baby John's photo ID excusing him from mandatory nursery attendance due to being "special needs."


Yes, you read that right. Let me explain:

My husband attended Hyles-Anderson College in NW Indiana from the fall semester of 2003 through November of 2005. During that time, we went to church at First Baptist Church of Hammond, at the time pastored by now disgraced Jack Schaap

FBC Hammond has a strictly enforced rule of no babies or young children in the auditorium. By strictly enforced, I mean the ushers at each door act as bouncers, and physically stop any parent from bringing young children into the main auditorium. If this policy has changed since then, someone please correct me.

When we first started attending there, Solomon was almost 2 years old, and Isaac was 6 months. While we were not fans of the nursery, we also were not categorically against it. Isaac had enjoyed the old nursery back at our home church, partly due to the fact that Solomon was in there with him. In Hammond, however, nursery was not cozy and sweet as one might imagine - it was baby bootcamp. Crying babies were not tended to, unless the schedule said it was time to feed, diaper, or move them to the swing. In general, emotional needs were a foreign concept, and coddling babies was out of the question.

I could write post after post about how particularly terrible the facilities and staff at the Hammond nurseries were. For starters, the meanest, oldest, most-opposed-to-breastfeeding matrons were put in charge of the youngest babies. For a church with hundreds of babies, there were about one dozen old, dirty metal chairs with arm rests in exactly the wrong positions crammed into the back of a ladies' restroom for nursing moms. Due to the seating shortage, nursing sessions were restricted to 15 minutes per mom/baby. Yet, I don't remember the chairs ever even being maxed out. All the good, responsible mamas dutifully pumped a bottle for church services, so their 2-day old could be left from 9:30 am before Sunday School started, until past noon when the morning service dismissed. Unless, of course, the parents had a bus route to tend to all afternoon, in which case baby was left from before Sunday School, until after the evening service dismissed sometime around 8 pm or later. I actually knew many people who would literally leave their tiny newborn baby in the nursery for that whole entire day, every week. Makes me shudder!!!!

One time, Isaac was about 8 months old, I had the audacity to nurse him twice in the same morning. Once between Sunday School and the morning service, and then again when, on mother's instinct, I returned a few minutes later to check on him and found him wailing miserably, laying alone in a crib, completely ignored. I briefly nursed him again, hoping he would fall asleep. I had to be back in the main auditorium before the preaching started, at which point nobody could come and go any longer. The nursery worker in charge of Isaac that day was a particular piece of work. She made no secret of letting on just how much she despised my permissive parenting of a baby. I hated having to turn Isaac back over to her. He was so tired, but too worked up to relax and go to sleep. 

When I returned after the service to get him, I realized that the little number tag that we received in exchange for our child was left in my husband's suit coat pocket. Even though this woman had twice that morning handed Isaac to me to nurse him without requiring the number tag, she was now refusing to hand him to me, just to teach me a lesson. She insisted I must produce the tag to be given my child. She knew who I was, she knew I was the mother, she was just a jerk. Had Isaac been playing happily, maybe I wouldn't have cared, but he was screaming, beet-red, worked up and overtired, back in that same stupid crib, obviously having been ignored for the last 90 minutes. And this woman was refusing to let me have him!!! This is back before everyone had cell phones, so I couldn't just call my husband and ask him to come over with the tag. There was no way I was going to find him in this tangled sea of thousands of people crammed in tiny back hallways. (This was all at the old, overcapacitated church buildings.) We had agreed beforehand to meet at Isaac's nursery after he picked up Solomon from his, so I figured I would just stay put and wait for him to show up. I told the nursery worker I at least wanted to hold my child in the nursery to console him while we waited for the "golden tag," but she would have none of it, claiming my "street shoes" (which she also was wearing) would contaminate their floors. Isaac wasn't even allowed one foot outside the nursery. It took my husband a good quarter hour before he worked his way over there, having had to wait in line for Solomon, etc. The whole while, this monster is holding my screaming baby hostage. My blood still boils just thinking about it.

Even before this, immediately after moving to Hammond, Isaac (who had virtually never cried in his life as he was the mellowest, most content baby we have ever had) started becoming fitful and clingy. Normal at that stage maybe, but greatly exacerbated by the nursery "care." He would start crying anytime he couldn't see me, or if I put him in the car seat. He started being up at night. Both he and Solomon started being sick for months on end - I would miss as many services as I would be able to attend, thanks to all the illnesses being brought home from the oh-so-sterile nursery. Must have been all those street shoes (eye roll).

I felt like I had two kids in day care, and I wasn't even going to any of the many little classes and events they put on for the ladies, which always included nursery care. The pervading notion was that the more often a mother would drop her baby off to "serve God" in some other capacity, the more righteous and godly she was. Wives of full-time college students were allowed so many college credits for free each semester, and there literally were women who would take one 8 o'clock class, just so they could drop their baby off in the nursery, and leave it there until chapel dismissed at 1 pm. This would give them all morning, from 9 am to noon, to be footloose and fancyfree. The cheap nursery laborers were college girls taking the "Christian Wife and Motherhood" degree. So they were not only cheap, they actually PAID college dues to babysit in the nursery.

Needless to say, we realized we had to come up with some other alternative. We resorted to me sitting in the hallway with baby Isaac in my lap, while my husband started smuggling Solomon into the main auditorium. This worked for a while, though I received plenty of dirty looks from ushers walking the hallway. 

However, shortly after John was born, the church moved to its new (current) auditorium. This being their Taj Mahal, having anyone sitting in the foyers or hallways with a baby in arms was absolutely no-no, as it ruined the image they were going for. Nevermind the fact that they had sofas everywhere, and I could actually have sat and listened in comfort. We were told the only options for parents were to put the kids in the nursery, or else not to come back to church.

At this time, my husband had finished about half of the required credits for his 4-year degree by taking tons of classes each semester, and doing summer school. Having invested so much time, effort, and money into this Bible college degree, we didn't just want to walk out. But we also were not going to put the kids back into the hands of those nursery dragons. 

And this, you see, is where the story all comes together. The beautiful new auditorium had two fully glass-enclosed, sound-proof rooms extending into the main auditorium, designated for the infirm. One of these rooms housed all the insane people they would bring in from various nursing homes (no joke), the other was always empty but allegedly for chronically sick people. 

In order to be allowed access to the glass cage, one had to produce a written note from their doctor, stating why and how long they could not be allowed in the general nursery population. Through a series of fortunate events, my chiropractor at the time wrote up a note for John, stating that the rash he was born with on his face and torso might be contagious, and that he was to be kept separate from other children. The people in charge of issuing the cards were suspicious enough to want to consult with a dirty old man at the church, Dr. Creeper Streeter, but thankfully he was unavailable at the time that we were to be seen by him and the card was, after some debate, issued to us without the approval of the holy man in white.

Side note: In all the years at the college, I only attended one class there. It was taught by Dr. Creeper Streeter himself, and open only to the engaged young college ladies getting married at the church in the near future. At the time, I of course was the married mother of three. This secretive meeting aroused enough suspicions in us that we felt it might be interesting for me to sneak in there incognito, wired with a hidden recorder and all. Through dumb luck, I got through the matron nurses checking names at the door. I mean, even the windows had been completely blacked out by heavy fabric.

The meeting was all about graphic sex ed complete with a blown up crotch shot of a naked woman, the good doctor pushing birth control pills and insisting they do not cause silent abortions (the first batch was practically free, and I am sure it had nothing to do with the accompanying pelvic exam he had to perform in order to give them out), and urging young virgins to come see him at his office before their wedding night, as they would not be able to consummate the marriage with their husband if he did not surgically assist in ridding them off their virginity first. As a married woman who had thrice given birth, the graphic and obscene nature of this "class" made me blush and shrink back into my chair. One of these days, I will need to make the tape from that meeting public. This is the same college physician that divorced his wife after getting one of the nurses pregnant, which neither cost him his position nor his clinic at the college.
How did I get off on this tangent? This was the same doctor that was to come and look over my baby John, to see if he was indeed legitimately indisposed of the nursery. We were not going to let the creep anywhere near the baby if it had come to a showdown, but we were glad that the whole thing was averted through an act of God. 

Being granted photo ID began a period of time where we could sit, without harassment, and observe the services from the cheese bell known as the West Overflow Room. Besides us, the room was virtually empty. Those cards were hard to get, I'm telling you. Can anyone who goes to church there tell me if they still issue these?

By the end of the next year (November 2005), even though my husband was so close to being done with college (he was slated to graduate at the end of the spring semester in May of 2006), we left the church and the college because it became so overwhelmingly evident that Jack Schaap was a false teacher and a pervert. And he wasn't the only one on staff there. With the blessing of our pastor back in California, we moved to Arizona to start Faithful Word Baptist Church, and the rest is history.

There were good things that came out of going to Bible College in Indiana. One of them being that we went from being somewhat supportive of church nurseries, to being vehemently opposed to them, much to the betterment of children and families in our church and elsewhere.




But yeah, this card cracks me up. Photo ID for church!

41 comments:

  1. How horrible!

    I've often wondered why you are so vocally opposed to things like daycare and nurseries in your blog and why you have gone out of your way to shame people like this pastor. It all makes sense now that I've read about your experience. I would have some passionate feelings about these issues if I had experienced this also!

    Why would any family with small children attend a church like that? If you aren't made to feel welcome, why on earth even bother trying to be a part of the church family? You could get more out of home church where your children feel loved.

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    1. i guess the church and college are connected. if going to their college you have to go to their church.??

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    2. Yes, you could not go to the college unless you went to the church. Those on staff at church or college were also forbidden to homeschool, and had to put their kids in their Christian schools.

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  2. Wow that is HORRIBLE! So sorry you had to go through that. I am really puzzled at churches against nursing, I mean- don't they realize God created it that way on purpose?!

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    1. Nursing in church is a huge no-no, much less in the auditorium, covered or not. One pastor told me just covering up didn't make it any more appropriate than to put up a bed in the auditorium for married couples to have intercourse under, while covered by a blanket. Yup, because breastfeeding is inherently sexual - face palm!

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    2. wow...well you wouldn't have problems being uncovered in this church. They go to the other extreme

      http://exministries.tv/virginias-nude-worship-service/?fb_source=pubv1

      Sophia

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  3. This post was an eye opener for me. I did not know that churches like this even existed. I am disgusted. I cannot see how any Christian in their right mind would attend a church like this. I have always wondered where your hatred for church nurseries and children's classes came from, but figured it was a big city thing of not really knowing the people in your church that well. Now I can see why you feel the way you do. I am very blessed to attend a small country church. We no longer have a nursery (because we only have a couple little ones in the church), but when we did, it was FANTASTIC. The mothers who had small children and some of the teenage girls of those families took turns caring for the little ones. All the women of child-bearing age in our church have a quiver full mind set, so when a baby is born to one of the ladies in our church there is no lack of ladies willing to hold and cuddle that baby so mama can hear some preaching! I love the children in our church like I love my own. I'm so sorry you had to go through such an awful experience. I will say though, that you are right on about the sickness. I guess it's just inevitable when you put a bunch of little ones (who have no understanding of personal space) together:)

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  4. This post is amazing on so many fronts and in so many ways. So glad we have gotten out of nurseries and now attend a family church. :) :)

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  5. Wow, this made my blood pressure rise a little just reading about your experience! What an awful place!!

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  6. Oh, my goodness. That is scary and sad! I felt sick just reading it. What a horrid experience. Yikes.

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  7. Wait a sec.... so Pastor Anderson never finished seminary?

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    1. Thank God, he didn't. The last thing the world needed is another educated theologian that is ignorant of the Bible.

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    2. You don't believe him to be capable of both?

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  8. WOW! I don't even have words. It seems like everything I've ever heard about this place is horrible! It's very honorable that Pastor Anderson stood his ground on what was right and left such a school after putting so much work (and undoubtedly lots of money!) into it. I already totally agreed with you on church nurseries and the such but I had no idea it was THAT bad for you in the past. What an eye opener!
    Karen E

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    1. By the time we left, we had put about 15k into it. Always paid cash as we went, so thankfully there was no debt. In fact, my husband even paid the entire tuition for the remainder of the fall semester, and yet a friend of his at the college said they read his name off the "financially withdrawn" list for a full month after we left so people would think we left because we couldn't afford the classes any more.

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  9. what did you mean by the surgically ridding virginity comment? do you mean you think a regular exam does this, or did he do something specific to the women? ive read a lot about the hymen and peoples opinions on how virginity is technically lost. what are your views on tampons? do you think they do any harm? i loved them my whole life, but have hated them the last few years and have used bought pads and homemade cloths. i never had children, so can you tell me what happens with you pd. during all you childbearing years? i know we dont bleed when preg. and i heard that after preg. the bleeding is long. i know this isnt your main point, but ive just wondered. i missed out on the repro part of life personally for whatever reasons. i guess you havent had a pd. for approx. 63 months? im ready for menopause......:) thanks.

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    1. I'm not claiming to understand the mind of a pervert. He claimed that a huge percentage of girls had an "imperforable hymen" though he did not go into the specifics of what tools he would use to "correct" that. He literally said something along the lines of "I guess if you want your husband to be the first man to see you naked, you can wait to have it done until after your wedding, but you will just end up in my office on the day after your wedding because you will not be able to have intercourse, and if you can, it will be very painful."

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    2. its always painful at first i thought. bc they hymen is being broken most times? but all people are different i hear. some women hurt and bleed, and others dont i hear. it was just never fully explained to me when i was younger. they say tampons can tear some womens' hymens. i dont know.........

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    3. I too use cloth(and a menstrual cup) instead of tampons and will never go back! And as a nurse I can tell you that most girls already have hymens that are broken or simply gone do to puberty or activities such as sports or just running. Hymens can also be stretched out of the way when using tampons. My only beef with them is that they increase the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. While a thicker hymen is possible it is incredibly rare. This pastor was LYING! If such a problem does exist it is usually discovered during puberty.

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  10. Wow, I'm surprised you still attend church at all after that experience. It sounds more like a cult: run by narcissists, enforcing arbitrary rules and isolating and controlling vulnerable members. Your experience sounds horrific, you must have felt so helpless. I imagine now there is nothing that would stop you from walking past the nursery attendant and picking up your own child, it was completely illegal for them to try to prevent you from doing so. Wow, just wow.

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  11. I am having a similar issue on a smaller scale our Pastor went Hyles and is a friend of Schaap recently we decided to have our child in church and the pastor told us if we didn't put our kids in nursery then we'd have to leave......we live in the country and our current church is literally the only good church within two hours.....so now we have to do it.....

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    1. I am so sorry :( My husband's advice now is to go to the service, and wait for them to physically try to remove you, which they probably won't do. They may say all sorts of things, but few will go to the extreme of physically removing you. Not an ideal situation, but better than not going to church at all, or leaving your child in the care of such people.

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    2. Even though the pastor may have it in for you, there are most likely other families in the church who like you, and are your friends. If the pastor tells you not to come back, just keep coming anyway. It is incredibly unlikely that he will call a church-wide meeting to kick you off the membership, especially since they have no scriptural grounds. The pastor doesn't want to make every family mad just because he doesn't like what you are doing. They are just all talk, hoping that you will let them bully you. Like I said, not a good situation, but the pastor isn't the only church member - those members with a brain could be your friends, and let the pastor stew about it. If his nursery were so great, people would be lining up to leave their kids there. They have to be forced because it's not that great. Your child is not safe in the care of such tyrants.

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    3. "the only good church".....have you given the others a try? Or are you going on word of mouth? Please Church shop. And do you really want to be pastored by a friend of Schaaps?

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    4. As I responded to someone else below:

      "You know, you are so right. I guess I understood it to mean they liked Schaap while he was considered to be a great guy (as they just follow party line, where FBC/HAC can do no wrong), not that they still like him after all that has been made public about him.

      Yes, if the pastor is still supporting a known pervert, this is not a viable church."

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    5. We visited and called churches daily for over a month...we even went to one listed one listed your church directory which turned out to be repent of your sins. All usedthe wrong Bible or Calvinism. Or works we live in the middle of the boonies. I think our Pastor is blind to the fact that Schaap doesn't even believe the accuracy. Of the. KJV....or at least I hope:/ He seems to view Schaap fall as a David situation (I don't). Our nursery. Isn't bad I just want the boys to be in church....but because we got in "trouble" at church for sharing your husband's sermons he automatically assumed it's only because your pro-intergration( which by the way we got in trouble because everyone at church loved your sermons passed them on and gave one to Pastor thinking he'd love it........which was wrong lol)

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  12. I'm not judging you...but: If I was attending a church that had (basically) bouncers at the door to keep children out and that REQUIRED them to be in the nursery for hours on end....(why?...because they might *gasp* make noise?) I don't know that I would have stayed for the first service. My kids are older now (8 and 3) but I didn't let ANY non-family members care for them as infants.

    Also, the whole breastfeeding thing would make my eyes roll out of my head if I was told "sorry, here's the bathroom....have at it but only for 15 minutes. Oh by the way hold your nose because someone had a stinky BM" ...again...walking out the door to find a more welcoming church.
    My question is.....why did you stay for as long as you did? (ESPECIALLY after the class you took)

    Where you not listening to God when he was smacking you in the face with all of the things you posted about? Church is supposed to feel like home.....and what you posted sounded to be the furthest thing from it.

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    1. Well, in hind sight, I totally agree with you. I guess we were kind of like people who think they may be lost, but rather than turn around and backtrack, we just kept going, hoping that the right path was just around the corner. The longer we kept going, the more we had invested, and the closer we thought we were to being done with it. We felt this was a sacrifice we were making so my husband could become a pastor.

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  13. hind sight is always 20/20 isn't it?

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  14. Zsuzsanna I'm surprised that your advice to the anonymous that said "our Pastor went Hyles and is a friend of Schaap" was to stay in that church. Anyone who is a friend of Schaap and hasn't denounced him from the pulpit for his criminal acts AND his amazing scripture acrobatics is not someone that I would waste 1 minute listening to preach a sermon! About 4 yrs. ago we went to a church where the pastor had gone to Hyles and praised it up and down. When the church would have potlucks after the service the pastor would play videos from the pastors conferences they had at Hyles while everyone ate. Some of the things that were said didn't sit right with my husband so he started doing research on Schaap and it didn't take long to figure out that this wasn't something that we wanted to be a captive audience for! There has got to be a better church than what this woman is going to. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night thinking my pastor considered Schaap a friend and hadn't made a public statement denouncing Schaap's behavior. Disgusting...

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    1. You know, you are so right. I guess I understood it to mean they liked Schaap while he was considered to be a great guy (as they just follow party line, where FBC/HAC can do no wrong), not that they still like him after all that has been made public about him.

      Yes, if the pastor is still supporting a known pervert, this is not a viable church.

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  15. Wow! That totally goes against Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, and Luke 18:16 which all say "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." I quit going to a church because the kids were expected to go to "children's church" until 6th grade. Then when they did finally go in regular services, they had no idea how to behave. No wonder so many youth are leaving our churches because they don't feel they belong.

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  16. Oh my. I seriously didn't know that places like that exsist. Just used to my little ole Maine churches where Christ is preached and life is good and we're all in the fight together, churches are being planted, christians are true and real, some have nurseries, some don't, but I've never heard of such a thing. Sooo soo sad. And yeah, you've got to reveal that tape. Wowee! I'm disgusted.

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  17. I totally understand your frustration and anger. I had a similar experience with an Episcopalian Church when my son was around 8 months old. We started attending this church when my son was around 5 months old. On the very first visit one of the greeters mentioned that they had a very nice nursery that my baby would enjoy. I just smiled and thanked her and went and sat in a pew with my son in my lap. My husband and I attended off and on for the next few months. When my son was around 8 months old I decided to give the nursery a try as it was extremely difficult to focus on a sermon when I was trying to wrangle my very active infant. (I had also worked in the church nursery as a young teen and we loved and snuggled the babies and had so much fun playing with them for that hour or two and that was what I expected as it was my experience)

    Long story short, while he was fine when I left. He must have spent the next 1 1/2 hours screaming because when I went to pick him up I could hear him down the hall. I was furious and demanded to know why someone had not come and got me. Nursery staff said he had only been crying for a few minutes. I knew they were lying as it is quite obvious how long he had been crying by looking at him, his face was red, he was all sweaty and he was hoarse. I couldn't put him down the rest of the day, nor did I want to.

    That was our last visit to that church, ever. We eventually found a church that leaves it up to a parent's discretion on whether or not your child attends church with you. The nursery is cozy and clean and is mostly used by nursing mom (there are big comfy rocking chairs just for that purpose) and mom's that need to give their talkative, busy toddlers a minute or two to play. The room also has speakers so you don't miss anything.

    Unfortunately there are still a lot of churches out there that support separating children and parents during any church time.

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  18. I was at HAC in the late 70-early 80's. I never had children while there but totally believe your experience. I'm sure if you had been in the "inner circle" your child would have been treated much better. And Elise - you have to realize that 1st Baptist and HAC are very cult like. It is drilled in you from day 1 that if you quit before graduation, God won't use you ever, you will be out of His will. You are kept so isolated that you believe what you are told. It's a machine and very automated. Nothing is ever done spontaneously. Church services are planned to the inth degree. I know adults now who were raised in 1st Baptist and HATE their parents because of the way their parents did everything they were told and pretty much abandoned their kids to "serve the Lord". Church workers took care of their kids - not parents. The church is smaller now because of all the scandals that have rocked it as is the college. And that's a good thing!

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  19. BEST. POST. EVER. and I've been reading for a long time.

    This line: The pervading notion was that the more often a mother would drop her baby off to "serve God" in some other capacity, the more righteous and godly she was.

    YES. This is the pervading notion at most churches today. When I was told to "just leave" my 18 month old daughter, who was born with a laundry list of health concerns to do with her kidneys for five hours every Sunday morning while I taught Sunday school, I just about died.

    I was told, "She needs to learn that other people besides you can care for her." Really? You're going to catheterize her using Clean Intermittent Catheterization every two hours, too? REALLY?

    Also, the attitude of "if you're serving God, and you're away from your family, it's not family neglect, because, DUH! You're serving God!"

    ...no babies in the sanctuary. I don't get it. I really, just really don't. Suffer the little children, indeedy...our public school is more helpful with our daughter's special needs than the church ever was.

    Sad.

    http://pipsylou.blogspot.com/2013/09/her-heart.html

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  20. What a horror story! That church sounds like a cult.

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  21. Very scary, made my heart cry and feeling of such anguish of this happening to your child in church; ; so very sad! I can not understand this especially of all places this happening in church. I say again because my heart/mind can not comprehend completely this all.


    At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

    And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

    And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

    And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

    But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
    Matthew 18:1-6

    rosita

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  22. I'm stunned. I didn't even know there were churches like this. Ours had a I'm stunned. I didn't even know there were churches like this. Ours had a nursery but only for those who wanted to use it. Children weren't explicitly welcomed to the service, but they didn't have to be. It was just a given that families attended together. I suppose there could be Catholic Churches that weren't like this but I've lived in many places, including Japan, and never encountered one. It was of course the custom to take a loud baby or toddler out, but no one expected the mother (or father) to return to the service alone!

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