Dean Letter: The Pray-Ground

Dear St. Paul’s family,
You may have noticed a new feature in the northern aisle of the cathedral, near the Christmas Tree: this is our new and exciting Pray-Ground, an experimental soft and welcoming space for young children and their parents. Our Children, Youth, and Family leadership team has developed this new approach in tandem with our current formation ministry. Our intention is to offer an outward and visible sign of our continuing efforts to “Welcome All”. We were fortunate to receive a diocesan grant to enable us to experiment with the concept, providing a space where children can see the “action” in the Chancel and be engaged with the worship: there is strong evidence that including children in worship from the earliest ages is effective in keeping them engaged in church as they grow up. Regular presence at worship allows children to absorb the foundations of our faith in a profound way.
The diocesan grant is based in part on our desire to encourage unity among families attending both the 10:30 and the 1:00 pm services. Formation programs for children will now take place at noon so that families from both services can attend and grow up together in the faith. I hope we can all agree that raising our children in the faith and encouraging them to enjoy a multicultural environment are two critical elements of our future.
I know that our architecture, designed to enhance acoustics, will present a challenge to those who enjoy  our exquisite music, and I understand that some will be concerned about noise and distraction. I want to remind you that hearing the sounds of children in the church is an indicator that the church is alive and growing. With the right environment, the children will be no more distracting than cell phones, adult whispers, or dropped kneelers. The Pray-Ground will be furnished with sound-absorbing mats and blankets; we will adapt and improve the sound-dampening as we go. Materials available to children will be chosen with care to promote understanding and appreciation of the liturgy, with seasonal items, fabric books etc. The location of the Pray-Ground will allow an easy exit for parents whose children need a break from the service. I ask you to be generous and patient as we fine-tune this space.
I am excited about this innovation, which has been introduced in a number of large churches and cathedrals. Multiple congregational surveys have emphasized the need for us to develop our children’s ministry, and this experiment will help move us forward. I am very grateful to Maya Little-Saña and Mykel Resino for their leadership in this effort. We are about to enter the season of Epiphany, the time when the light of Christ shines out into the world to welcome those on the outside into faith. The Pray-Ground is one way for us to practice being Epiphany people.
Your sister in Christ

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