St Michaels and All Angels Church, Observatory, Cape Town
Sometimes I wonder about Sunday school. I take my kids to church most Sundays. They lounge about on the pews, completely disengaged from the service - which is, after all in Cranmer's English. They play with their collection money. They drop it on the floor. They lose it. They play with the hassocks. They pile them up and stand on them. Or they pile them up and then they sit on them. They fall off of them. They make others in the pew, who might want to use them, beg for them. They pile them in the space between the next pew and the seat, so you have to clamber over them to get into the pew. They read the hymn books upside down. They drop the hymn books. The spread themselves out luxuriously on the pews. They kick each other and then they fight.
All the while, I am talking to them in that strict parental whisper which all parents would recognise immediately. It is done either without moving the lips, through clenched teeth. Or, mouthing the threat with exaggerated lip movements and no sound at all. It usually works for about 3 seconds.
The fact is, they are fairly bored in church. However, on Sunday, I watched the younger one listening fairly intently to the soloists at the Haydn "Heiligmesse". He was listening. Of that I am sure.
They don't object to going to church. I see they are bribed with sweets in the Sunday school, where they run to, gleefully, after the reading of the Gospel - and I sigh a sigh of great relief and relax into the rest of the service.
"Is God's name "Allah"? asked my eldest child, some time after moving to Cape Town. "Yes!" I answered brightly. And Christians call him or her ..." (at this point I paused, flayling about wildly ...) "God"! - I came up with.
Last Sunday I watched Sunday school in action. It was the festival of Christ the King, so they made crowns to wear on their heads. They were asked what kind of a crown Jesus wore, even though he was the King of the whole world? Answer? - a crown of thorns.
She took it forward and asked the children what they wanted to do with their lives, because anyone could be a leader. I thought that was quite sweet and noted that my one child aspires to be a school principal.
The Sunday school teacher seems a lovely woman. She is kind, dedicated and constant. But would she say that God's name is Allah? I doubt it, somehow. And how do I explain to my children that the model of kingship is obsolete, wanting and should be confined to the waste-bins of human governance experience - within the context of a celebration of Christ the King?