Back Row Ministry
By Grace Andrews of Independence, MO, USA
Be mindful of the changing of life’s seasons, of the passage from the springtime of childhood and youth to the winter years of life. Embrace the blessing of your many differences. Be tender and caring. Be reminded once again that the gifts of all are necessary in order that divine purposes may be accomplished. —Doctrine and Covenants 161:4b
As a child, on Sunday mornings I enthusiastically made a beeline for the front of the church where my friend and I liked to sit. We didn’t always pay close attention, but we were there, listening most of the time, and singing the familiar and beloved hymns. We especially loved going to church during Advent when we could sing Christmas carols.
As I grew into my teen years, my friends and I often sat together in the middle of the church. But more often we sat in the back, so no one could see us passing notes.
When I married and had children of my own, I tried to find a location where the children could have a good view of the front and could be ready for taking part in the service.
Our children have grown into adults and now have families of their own. They sit in many places in their churches, while we like to sit comfortably in our familiar spot on the second row.
Recently, we arrived a little late for church. Not wanting to disturb the service, we sat on the back row. During that hour I noticed those around us and recalled the ones who used to sit there, but were now noticeably absent. Did they start out on the front row, become actively involved through the years, then gravitate to the back row, and then—without anyone noticing—quietly slip out the door and were gone?
I’m now committed to give a special hug to those on the back rows. I try to encourage them and let them know how much they are loved and needed. No matter what age, I invite them to the front or center of our community—our beloved congregation. Let’s not let those on the back row slip away from us, for surely they bless us by their presence.
Prayer for Peace
God who knows us each by name, help us notice when our church family is missing members or friends. Help us notice dissatisfaction before they stop coming. Help us discern needs and concerns that we can address to help them feel at home and find a way to share Christ’s peace.
Spiritual Practice: Advent—Hope
Close your mind to troubling thoughts from the past by placing them in God’s generous hands and letting them go. Let God speak to your fearful heart. Think of your hope for the future—open windows in your mind through which you can see compassionate actions. Reflect on the approaching hope of the Christ child. What is your part in the reason for that hope? Rejoice in the Hope of the world.
Today, God, I will contact someone who has been absent from church and let them know they are missed.