You sit in your pew as the priest begins, “Let us confess our sins unto Almighty God.” And behind you, a shriek, a “barbaric yawp” (as one parishioner described it) rips through the sanctuary. You say to yourself, “Lord, help us and deliver us.. And may I never have a Sunday Shrieker.”
But they come to all parents, at the fullness of time, when the moment is ripe for sanctification and shame. So, we’ve put together a guide on how to survive your Sunday Shrieker, giving you the essentials for how to identify and then react, when you encounter a Shrieker in the wild (i.e. in your own family).
No worries here — this is the imitation shriek. This is the baby’s drone as they seek to join the congregation chanting the Gloria. Everyone thinks it’s cute, so you can stay put, cheerfully (and pray that it doesn’t go downhill).
This is a friendly and happy kind of shriek. Yes, it’s very high-pitched and may cause hearing loss if too close. But, this kind of shriek plays an important echolocation task — attracting looks and smiles to the child, for the sake of fun and play. You should still stay put. And even try to enjoy yourself. This is the time when congregations feel really good about themselves; when parishioners reminisce about little “bats” all grown up now and the congregation feels a warm sense of inclusiveness — that they are the kind of church that doesn’t have a hard time including children in the service.
Here is where things start to get a bit more sinister and you may begin eyeing that bag of cheerios that you didn’t want to pull out in the sanctuary this week. But, but it’s not (quite) time to panic. While this shriek may be a forerunner, it’s still fairly inconsistent. This is where you may get a few glances that say, “You did hear that, right? You are paying attention, right?” And you stare back with a principled “we believe that children are full members of the congregation, but it’s hard” expression.
In the (out of context words) of Gandalf, “FLY, YOU FOOL!” This is no time for principles. There is a season for everything and this is not the season to stand your ground in the service. Make your way out of there, go home and pour yourself some bourbon during naptime. You made it out alive. Thanks be to God.