Preacher or Performer? The Crying Baby Test

crying-baby-lourveI was recently at a Conference where each day the Bible Study was led by a performance artist/theologian who acted out the biblical story and gave some exegetical/theological insight to the Scriptures. The content was terrific: substantial and challenging. But on the second day, a baby began to jibber-jabber loudly in the audience. After a few minutes of this, the performer stopped the show, looked in frustration at the baby and parent, and said “I love children, but I’m getting really distracted.” The parent and child got up and left the room…followed by several other parents who went out in solidarity and in protest. 

I talked later with the parent and I made this claim: a crying baby is a test as to whether someone is preaching or performing.

  • A performance is about focus and transmission of content: a solo or group act is on-stage doing an activity (singing, dancing, speaking, painting, instrument performance, etc) and it is the audience’s job to receive the content and appreciate or engage it.
  • A sermon (and I tend to appreciate black preachers’ definitions of sermons and preaching) is “verbal and nonverbal communication of the inward manifestation of a command by the Holy Spirit to relate to others something about God’s presence, purpose, and power in one’s life and in the life of all of humanity” (Teresa Fry Brown, Delivering the Sermon, pp. 17)

Given these two definitions, I get how babies can be a distraction to a performance. As a parent of an 11-month-old, my crying baby seems to be about 10x louder for me than she is for other people. Her cries are amplified, her running commentary on her dad’s sermon pierces through a crowd. So I get how a baby would interrupt a performance’s transmission of beauty or message because they interrupt that well-crafted focus.

But Preaching is about naming and claiming God’s love present in the room. It’s about that Holy Spirit that isn’t given to the preacher and then transmitted to the people: that Spirit is in each one there and they communicate back and forth. Churches that have call-and-response to the preaching moment get this phenomenon, and to them, crying babies are just another “amen” section. The preacher is preaching if they connect with the congregation: calling out a crying baby and causing them to leave idolizes the spoken word as more important than the body of Christ fully present in the room.

There are practical considerations: churches create “cry rooms” so that parents feel more comfortable (and, to be honest, some non-parents as well). Other parishioners can help comfort the baby if the parent is okay with it. I’ve seen my share of church-fails such as when another parishioner took a baby out of the parents hands and walked with the baby out of the sanctuary–had I been a more fully aware preacher, that would have merited a call-out! Let’s be clear: Parents self-selecting to take a baby out is one thing: public shaming or pressure to send a baby out is wholly another.

It’s my belief that if I can’t preach over, above, through, or alongside a crying baby, then I have no business preaching. And I should do serious reflection as to whether I am performing the Word of God or if I am allowing the Word to speak through and without me–and the latter will not be stopped by a crying baby, and indeed, it is incomplete without the presence of all who need to experience it.

What say you?

(Photo credit: “Crying baby at the Louvre” by Benjamin Lim, Creative Commons share on Flickr)
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Comments

  1. Amy B says

    I agree. I was once on a committee interviewing prospective pastors. We were talking over different little things about our church and the subject of children came up. “I believe that Satan uses crying babies to distract people from God’s Word,” said the interviewee. We sat there looking at him. Slowly, once of my fellow committee members wadded his resume up. The interview continued, but there was no callback.

    • says

      That is amazing…on the committee members part, not the pastor.

      I have a three year old and a 21 month old. Our nursery care begins after the children’s moment (approx. 15 min. into the service depending on how long the preacher, that’s me, talks). We’ve had some discussion about my children’s presence in the sanctuary. It’s somewhat frustrating.

      This comment and this post give me hope that a) I’m preaching not performing and b) I’m not alone.

  2. Anne Burkholder says

    Love the way you put this. Years ago when I was a pastor, I would describe our crying babies as “adding their voices to those of the great cloud of witnesses in the room”. You have given a thoughful analysis as to why I believed and acted the way I did, but had not identified the issue so clearly as the distinction between preaching and performance. I would like to use this blog as a resource in my Pastoral Ethics course on the day we discuss moral leadership in worship. (Candler School of Theology, Emory University)
    Thanks, Jeremy

  3. Janet says

    A baby in the room, crying or not, means that church has life and a future with hope. And you are right…the best preachers I’ve heard easily preach over, through and around baby and children noises in the room.

  4. says

    Well-timed in my life, sir! As the parent of a rowdy 20-month-old, I agree with you – I know I’m more bothered with the sounds of my own kid than others are. And it can be a real test of my preparation to over come the noise of my own kid. But I preach at a kid-friendly service. Last Sunday, a kid actually came up and said “Hi!” to me while I was preaching. It was amazing. I just told her thanks and moved along.

    We really struggle with putting our little guy in childcare during the service, but I remind myself that he’s needs to learn how to worship, and having him and other noisy kids in worship are signs that the church is alive. Most folks in my congregation find a lot of joy in the noise.

  5. Tyler says

    I guess I hear you addressing this to pastors but it doesn’t address what crying babies means to the congregation. An interesting discussion is what is the best way to handle crying babies in church in general? Not as much as an issue for the pastor, but so it is not a distraction for others in the congregation.

    • Pastor D says

      A congregation should celebrate the presence of a baby in their midst… it demonstrates a future. Just as the preacher should be able to continue preaching… a person in the congregation should keep listening and praising God.

      • Tyler says

        Theologically that sounds great, but practically that doesn’t seem like it works. It is like saying we should all value what anyone may want to say or how God is revealing truth to them during Church, but if we allow everyone to get up and talk at once it is a problem. This is what Paul addressed in one of his letters.

        There is a practical issue and the reality is the human ear cannot hear some decibels (preacher) when a higher decibel is closer in proximity(baby crying) to our ears. If you are at the other side of the sanctuary and you are allowing it to distract you, then I agree. But what of those in direct adjacency to the noise?

        • Stephanie Anthony says

          I guess what I hear the author and others saying is that we don’t necessarily need to think of the spoken word of the preacher as have priority over the crying of the baby, or another way to say it – -the noises of the community add to, not distract from, the experience of Christ the Word made flesh in worship. If I thought the salvation of the world and the faith of everyone in the congregation depended on them hearing every word, I’d be much more concerned about the other noises in the sanctuary, be them crying babies, coughing elderly folks, whispering (if we’re lucky) teens, opening and closing doors…. Since I’m relatively certain that they (salvation and faith) aren’t dependent on my every word, a crying baby (or other noise) may be a slight distraction or cover-up of the words that are being spoken, but more importantly they are on-going signs of the life of the Body of Christ, and therefore preaching as much as my sermon.

        • Michael says

          Amen, Tyler! Certainly it is the pastor’s job to carry on as well as possible, and of course we need to include children in worship whenever possible. However, I was in the room during this Bible study – on the other side of the room from the mother and child, actually – and I found the crying pretty distracting. I can only imagine how much more distracting it would have been if I had been sitting more closely to the child!

        • says

          My general response is that a church should have structure in place to deal with a distraction…and that structure shouldn’t include a pastor calling down from the pulpit. My church had an issue a few years before my time, and they put a few rocking chairs with a speaker outside the worship hall for crying/nursing mothers. It’s worked well ever since.

          Main point: If the structure is in place and the parents are aware of options, then disruptions ought be minimized without pulpit condemnation.

          • Tyler says

            Thank you Michael for agreeing. Rev Jeremy, I agree completely.I think you wanted to place the emphasis on the preacher’s job, and I rather wanted to raise a related question to church structure / congregational responsibility. I appreciate your willingness to discuss

          • Jane says

            So in regards to this particular situation, what was the leadership doing? Was there another option tried?

          • says

            Again, as a “general response”, that’s what my comments are in regards to. I am not privy to the leadership’s response and as far as I know, neither performer nor leader’s made any public statements during or after the incident.

          • says

            *shrug* That’s fine to say. The blog post used the situation as a single paragraph jumping-off point (with NO NAMES or identifiers…all that has come from the commenters, mind you), so its content is not dependent on one’s opinions of this particular situation.

          • Stephanie Anthony says

            So what’s the structure to have in place for the elderly person who gets a coughing fit and doesn’t leave the room? Should there be a coughing room? Or what about the adult with a bad back who can’t sit in a pew, but needs to pace at the back of the sanctuary most of the service. That could be a distraction, too, although maybe not a noisy one. A pretty quiet one that distracts me when I’m in the pews instead of preaching is the rhythmic hiss of an oxygen tank that is assisting someone who is simply breathing next to me. Again, it’s not noisy, but it totally attracts my attention and pulls it away from whatever else is going on so that I’m counting beats like it’s music.

            I guess my “beef” with discussions about what to do with crying babies is that we only ever ask these kinds of questions about children or babies and their parents as if there are no other possible causes of distraction when the Body of Christ gathers. That’s why putting all of the onus on the parent and/or child to make a fix to the distraction bothers me.

            I’m not a fan of sending every possible distraction out of the sanctuary leaving only the “perfect” people behind. I know you’re not saying that. I’m exaggerating to make a point, and I guess that point is that no matter how well meaning we are any time we set up a second place that is outside of the rest of the worship space, even if we mean it and do it with the best of intentions and even if the families are on board, we are making a statement about who (and their noises and habits) is in and who is not. I don’t have a solution other than the ones that we’ve mentioned about alternative spaces that are optional, but I just think we need to be aware of the perception these can give so that we can be intentional to counter with our real message.

  6. LaVonne Carlson says

    Great point! May I add to this conversation that this holds true not only for crying babies, but for older kids and even adults who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (such as Autism). Sometimes their presence in a service can seem disruptive, but they too are a part of the great cloud of witnesses. As Nella Uitvlugt, the late Executive Director of Friendship Ministries, once said, “There are two women who come to our church who sometimes make monkey noises. That’s something they don’t teach you in seminary — how to preach over women making monkey noises!” And yet, when you visit that church, the overwhelming feeling you get is the welcoming presence of Christ, not a sense of disruption.

  7. Mark says

    I treat the crying, cooing, calling out, and general hustle and bustle as a response to the preaching and tend to include the kid in question with an “Amen” or “Just so sister/brother” or some other acknowledgement of their presence in our midst… I am with you preach it and let the spirit work the sounds are not a distraction!

  8. Joel Zimmerman says

    Well put. Our congregation seems to be quite welcoming of our baby. Though her cuteness helps. They’re even supportive whenever the congregation silently prays and she yells “Bubbye!” We wouldn’t be part of a congregation that doesn’t welcome children, or shames parents of babies.

  9. DW says

    I was at that conference and seated almost directly behind the baby, two row back. I had tried very hard to be gracious and accepting, but from where I was sitting, I could see that the parent was doing very little to encourage the child to be quiet. After it had gone on for several minutes, I began to find it extremely distracting, even though I was trying very hard to concentrate on what was being said from the stage. I know I was not the only one having problems, because I saw others seated in the same area starting to shoot looks towards the child. I don’t want to see someone ejected from a worship experience, but I do feel that at some point, the parent needs to take into account exactly how much of a distraction a child has become. By all means, try a few times to calm and quiet that child without going out, but failing that, realize that your child is your responsibility, and if that child is creating a significant disruption, perhaps the child needs to be taken out where that situation can be handled more appropriately. Regardless of whether the speaker is a preacher or a performer, at some point there has to be a balance in considering how much the child is interfering with the delivery of the message, from the point of view of both the preacher/performer and those who have come to listen and worship.

    • Greg says

      DW, I agree with your point, but in my experience that type of parent is rare. In my life, what I’ve found is that a kid acts up, parent tries a few things, and then takes them out if they don’t work. I guess there are always folks who aren’t the norm, but even then the presenter/Gospel-reminder/pastor/performer can make it a positive instead of a negative…my take-away line from above, “It’s just another Amen from the crowd.” Luv it!

  10. JMSR says

    I do not have kids – yet – but since I started preaching thirteen years ago, the most blessed sound I can hear from within a congregation is the loud voice of new life praising God while I preach! Babies and toddlers running around, babies crying, parents soothing, grandparents caressing their grandchildren… all this is a testimony to the love of God and to the long life of the church. At one of my previous churches, a kid was always running around and his single mother could barely contain him. What I did was simple: I invited the kid to sit with me at the front during the service. The head Deacon was furious, but the mother was glad, the grandparents started coming to church and other young families friends with the single mom started coming as well. At any given time, I would have from 2 to 6 kids sitting with me during the service… BEFORE children’s sermon! I took that as a sign that the church had a bright future.

  11. says

    A preacher who gets on this space and disagrees with UM Jeremy sure risks being called a prima donna. So I will say that through the years I’ve become more tolerant and less anal when it comes to “ambient” noise in the room. It IS fun to note the unintentional “Amen” in the sanctuary. And we have some folks on the autism spectrum who regularly interrupt . . . and it’s a beautiful sound indeed.
    Yet DW is spot on when it comes to infants. The issue is more about the parents and how sensitive they are or are not towards their fellow worshippers.
    Besides, my kids are 24 and 21 and haven’t cried in church in at least three years.

    • Rick says

      I have had parents who relished the attention they got from their infant during a worship service.
      I just kept on going, because saying anything makes you the villain. But distractions and chaos are not of the Lord (1 Cor 14:33) and should be addressed tactfully and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    • Carolyn says

      DW does have a point: the ear is naturally drawn to sounds that are higher in pitch. That’s why sopranos always have to sing quieter than altos and tenors have to sing quieter than basses- in order to make the chord balance properly when the choir sings. When a male or any adult with a mid-to-low voice is speaking, a child’s cry will stand out to the listener’s ears because it is higher in pitch. It requires more concentration to stop listening to the higher pitch and focus on the lower one. Also, children’s crying and babbling confuses people’s hearing aids into “thinking” that the preacher is background noise and amplify the child even more. This is maybe less of a problem at RMN, but it’s more of a problem in older churches. I’m not saying that Jeremy’s point is wrong, but there are practical reasons why cry rooms exist. Crying children present a challenge. Is there a way we can balance theological concerns with practical ones?

  12. says

    I agree that there can be a negligence issue on the part of parents, but that’s so hard to assess, and as a preacher, I can’t imagine calling somebody out like that. Parents really do stay home from church because their kids won’t stop screaming in the nursery and they won’t be quiet in the sanctuary. I actually just got off the phone with a mom who told me this was why she hadn’t been coming. We need to make special space available for people with kids who want to talk or crawl around, but let the parents decide what they’re going to use or not use and respect that decision.

  13. Tiffany says

    My name is Tiffany and I am the mother in question in this post. My son, Henry, is the child who caused all of this commotion. Sometimes I find it helpful to talk about real people rather than situations, stereotypes, or generalizations.

    Henry is a very vocal child. He was babbling and talking and trying to engage those around him. He is an emerging toddler who is excited about the world around him. Contrary to what it might have seemed like to others, I actually was doing my very best to work with him and was quite aware of the looks I was receiving from some of those around me. Some people were smiling and engaging my child. Some were trying to distract my child with toys or gestures. And, some were clearly upset.

    As a mother of two young children I am used to all of those looks and always quite aware of the people around me. As a parent, I am constantly trying to negotiate what will be the least disruptive for those around me. I was in the middle of negotiating that when I was asked to leave. And, I did. Quickly and quietly. And, I did not return to a single session beyond worship for the rest of the conference.

    Before you judge anyone with young children, I’d invite you to introduce yourself to them. Talk to them. Ask if they need help. We are all really doing our best and simply need a little bit of compassion, tolerance, and grace along the way. I am not the last noisy parent you will meet. Maybe next time the situation won’t have to be so bad for everyone involved.

    • Emily says

      Nice to e-meet you Tiffany. Speaking as a mother who was wrangling my own toddler for the weekend, I just wanted to say you’re doing a great job. Taking your kids to a conference like this one is important. Teaching your kids that they are a part of the Body of Christ now is important. I echo what you say about help, too. There MANY times I needed help this weekend – carrying luggage while wrangling a toddler, carrying a tray of food while wrangling a toddler, etc. One woman did help me with one load of luggage as I was leaving. I was so relieved and thankful. I pray as our churches grow toward what they are intended to be, parents get more help and children are more welcome. Come and worship at my church any time! I’m sorry the weekend was not welcoming for you or your kids.

      • Tiffany says

        Hi Emily, glad to meet you too! Thank you for talking to me and not about me. I appreciate your kindness and the dignity you allow me. Next time we have to get our children together for a play date at Convo!

      • Tiffany says

        And, I should add that the weekend was actually incredibly welcoming for me and my family. RMN is Church at its best and they surrounded me in love. That is why I brought my children in the first place…to know the love of God through this Beloved community….and they did!

    • rjwalker says

      >>Talk to them. Ask if they need help.

      FWIW: At one church (services ran about 150 – 200) where I was an usher, we would be quietly watching from the back. In most cases, infants might make noise for a minute or two and then quiet down. If the noise continued _and_ if we saw people getting distracted, our practice was to quietly go to the parent and ask if we could be of assistance.

      This didn’t happen often, but in some cases it seemed as if the parent welcomed to opportunity to leave (as if they were perhaps embarrassed and ‘paralyzed’) in other cases they stayed put. We always tried to avoid any suggestion that they weren’t welcome – at our pastor’s direction.

      If I recall correctly, those who left would usually return after the child had quieted down.

      In retrospect, it seems to me that those folks usually sat in the back half of the sanctuary, as if anticipating the possibility of a quick down time with their child.

    • revgovett says

      I do not believe in this situation Henry was the cause of the commotion. I am sure children were present in the temple, market place, palace and well, wherever people gathered in biblical times. Jesus said something like, let the children come to me, and I imagine that his tone was not sarcastic or condoning, the same can not be said, you being asked to leave. I was there a few rows back, and Henry was not a distraction, but that is a personal thing, others have said otherwise, so I do not know what the proper procedure would have been, but I do know how it should not have been done, and the way that it was done, and personally it was an embarrassment for the event – the way it was done and the tone of the speaker. In this instance, I felt like the jailer, who should have said something, done something, but thought it was not his place, I wanted so desperately to hear a remark from the conference regarding this, and we where silent. sadness. I do believe in a fully inclusive church and that church includes children. I was delighted to see parents bring their children to Convo, to sing, and smile, and sometimes disrupt a church that needs to sing more, smile more and be disrupted. Thank you for your witness.

  14. theresa says

    I know of one pastor who will go and fetch the baby and preach with it in his arms, after singing to it for a moment. For most babies, this is all it takes. I’ve tried it myself – they either start SCREAMING or they calm down (especially if they know you). I think welcoming children in worship – it might be biblical, or something. “Suffer the little children” and all that.

  15. Emily says

    Pretty sure I was at that same Bible study… Wish I had met you there. And I was horrified by what the performer said. And he did say it bothered him as a performer, which doesn’t at all excuse it. Especially since the gathering was supposed to be welcoming of all. My own toddler spent much of the past weekend while I was at this conference wandering around in the back of the auditorium and loving it. I was grateful to bring her to this gathering. And was relieved that she was not in the room when the performer made the remark he did. Shame on him. It affected my ability to listen to him for the rest of the performance. Parenting is tough. And parents deserve to be in the room with others for worships and Bible studies. We have to miss so much of church participation because of bedtimes, naptimes, the cost of childcare, etc. etc. Thank you for blogging about this.

  16. Kari Morris says

    This article deeply disappoints me. There is still a stigma, in the church and in the academy, around performing. Performing and preaching are pitted against each other as polar opposites, when in fact, they are one in the same. Any performer of integrity will speak of what they do as an invocation, a ministry, a connection to both those watching and especially to something to greater than them. In essence, performing is a human service, and is never, ever about the performer. The “performer” in this article, is not such. They are, in actuality, a self-important narcissist who, I dearly hope, never has children. Incidentally, I’ve met many preachers who also display such narcissism, and such hostility toward children. That attitude is the enemy, not performing, and should be riddled out asap. Children should always be welcome and free to be children, wherever they are.

    • Carolyn says

      As a fellow performer, I say Amen to that! I primarily perform as a singer in choir, so it’s easier for me to focus on the director when babies are crying in church. When I have no one else to help me focus my mind, I find it much harder. If this guy was really a professional (I’m not), he should have been able to keep his focus even while the child was babbling. Oh well, he’ll learn his lesson. Like the singer who doesn’t count not getting called for a second job, he won’t be called back to RMN. Ever.

    • Jane says

      This performer had friends who are here and reading this. The witness of name-calling is abhorrent. Where is the love that is spoken of so freely? Has anyone engaged the performer to know more? Has he been made aware this exists? I’d n

    • Jane says

      The performer is also a person and not just an instance. Please be aware that his friends are here reading this. I do not know if he is aware of this piece. The name-calling is abhorrent.

  17. Julie says

    As someone who has raised 5 children in church, and also been the one in the seat beside, in front, and behind an inconsolable upset infant/young toddler, I have to comment. I am a mother, my first calling is to my children. (Who are all grown up now, by the way) I am worshiping God when I tend to them first and teach them to be respectful of others. It is an act of worship, a calling, for me to take a really upset child out of the room where others are attempting to listen. It is not about what I deserve. Motherhood is a sacred sacrifice, and I honor God when I put my child first, even before my own needs. It is only for a season. I will have a chance to listen to a sermon free from the demands of motherhood soon enough.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about some cute giggles or babbles, (which can be equally as distracting in my opinion because babies are wonderful and fun to watch) I’m talking about crying that cannot be consoled fairly quickly.
    A pastor who has worked for his/her congregation and has come to share a message should be respected as much as any professor in a university. We would not think of letting a baby interrupt a lecture by someone with a PhD!
    Most certainly get up, walk around, find a quiet place on the floor with a distracting quiet toy, work toward calming the child, but if this does not work leave the room. This eventually teaches respect for others and self control to the child, two fruitful behaviors! Allowing a baby to cry through a pastors sermon is, quite frankly, letting your child steal the show with no consideration for the needs of others. Might this be how problems get started in the first place? We need to be in control of our children. A crying child is not really the issue here, it’s about parenting.
    Should we really be judging each other in this way? Preaching or Performing? We should let God judge that, and pay attention to parenting our children well. The church would be much healthier if the focus was on making God happy instead of making ourselves happy…

    • Lizzie says

      I’m sorry, but the tone of your entire post is judgmental and dismissive of the experience of many parents of young children in the church. The child in question was also NOT CRYING. He was babbling and talking and trying to engage with others around him, as toddlers do. It is developmentally inappropriate to expect a BABY to learn anything about “respecting others’ needs”. Babies and young children cannot grasp the concept of “others’ needs”. They are trying to get what THEY need to survive in the ways that they can–by crying; by clinging; by nursing; by babbling and learning to communicate. Also, your ideas about “motherhood as a sacred sacrifice” are antiquated and sexist. What about fatherhood? What about mothers who work outside the home? Are they not sacrificing enough? You mention judgment of the performer. What about your own intolerance for the differing approaches to parenting and mother/fatherhood that exist in the modern world? Your comment shows a profound lack of empathy for the mom in question, who was PUBLICLY SHAMED by Peterson Toscano for having a baby who was expressing himself. UGH.

    • Lizzie says

      Also, the man performing, Peterson Toscano, is not a minister. He is a writer and performer, not a preacher–which to me is largely irrelevant, but since the topic of this post is “Preacher or Performer?”, I wanted to clarify that point. Mr. Toscano has done many great things for the GLBT community by rejecting the ex-gay movement and speaking and writing about his experiences as a gay Christian man raised in a conservative church. But I cannot imagine why someone very familiar with the experience of rejection and shaming by the Church–which Mr. Toscano has written and spoken about extensively–thought it was at all Christian, welcoming, or tolerant to publicly call out a mother who was trying her best to manage her (non-crying) toddler.

      • says

        Peterson Toscano *is* a minister. He is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, Quakers, and Quakers have no special titles or honors for ministers—it’s a vocation and responsibility we all share. Some Quaker meetings minute their support for Friends who are called to travel in the ministry, and Peterson has a traveling minute from his meeting. Peterson is a minister by virtue of being a Friend, and his meeting united with his ministry in offering him a traveling minute.

  18. Jason says

    While I agree in sentiment with your post, I disagree in practice. Whether the pastor is a “Preacher or Performer” is of secondary concern to whether he/she is reaching, inspiring, touching, teaching, etc. his/her congregation. If there is a distraction within the sanctuary that is preventing the congregation (as a whole) from connecting, then that is an issue that should be addressed. Maybe not by calling someone out publicly, but addressed none-the-less.

    John Wesley once wrote that his Moravian mentor taught him to “preach it until you believe it.” (paraphrased) While I disagree with a pastor publicly calling someone out, I’m not convinced tossing blanket statements around is the right answer either.

    Just my thoughts. Thank you for your post.

  19. Jeni Markham Clewell says

    I say Amen! If we stand by what we believe about baptism, this child is beloved of God, crying or joyful, the same as us so-called adults. So if we were having a bad day or felt like crying to the point of sobbing in worship, would we be asked to leave the sanctuary? Would we be unloved? I believe not. I believe God’s spirit is with us always, like God promised. Shame on the performer and bring on the preacher.

  20. says

    I appreciate this thread. I have a question for those who attended this event/conference. Was there an option for childcare provided for the parents?

    • says

      There was childcare for young children, but it was just a few people in a big room with toys. Not a kind of situation you’d want to put a <2yo in. So yes, there WAS structural issues with the conference offering an alternative space for the child, but that should have been dealt with by the performer AFTER the piece, not during it. IMO.

  21. Neicy says

    I had a wonderful experience: During one of my sermons a three year old kept trying to escape. I could see his Mom trying to hold him down and telling him no. Finally, he escaped under the pew before his parents could stop him. He came running up to me in the altar area and said, “Pastor Neice I have goldfish for oou.” As I continued to preach, I reached out took the goldfish and gave him a pat on the head. He walked back to the pew with great pride. His mom gave him a hug and I gave him a thumbs up as he sat beaming and I continued preaching. After church folks said that was one of the best sermons they had heard!!

  22. Thomas says

    On Christmas Eve this past year there was a 3-4 year old seated in the 2nd row of the chairs. About 5 minutes in to the sermon, he passes gas extremely loud. There were quite a few people who giggled around the room. I hardly skipped a beat and kept preaching. After the service I had quite a few people ask me how I was able to maintain composure. This article sums up my response to them, that in the midst of a sermon, I’m not focused on my act of preaching, but on the message God has called for the church to hear.

  23. John Stuart says

    Try taking a crying baby into a prof’s class at seminary or college – you’ll soon be asked to leave. People think that church is a place where we can be rude, discourteous and misbehave. All that’s on show here is bad manners and inconsideration disguised as freedom of expression and no boundary poor parenting.

  24. Jane says

    A couple of thoughts. For those of us who were worshipping through livestream, the crying baby was drowning out the other sound. I think there is room for some noise from children, but sustained noise is distracting to some.

    Secondly, people with an anxiety disorder, or other psychological issues, are often triggered by noises such as this. Do we ask them to leave if they can’t deal with it? Is there a compromise to be made?

    There is a difference between preaching and performing. The performer in question is very clear that he is not preaching. Why are we continuing to hold him to a preaching standard? Quite honestly, through the portions that were streamed, the bible study time was what often resonated with me – it is where I most found myself without forcing new wine into old wine skins.

    • says

      I was careful to only reference the performance in question in the first paragraph. After reviewing the archive of the livestream, while you can hear the child intermittently in the background (not “sustained noise” as you called it), when the performer made the comment, he was in “preaching” mode about to transition to “performing” mode (you know what I mean if you saw the livestream). So at least he was aware that he was moving from one type of presentation to another and chose then to respond to a situation. Whether he chose wisely is up for interpretation.

      Regardless, the argument by the blog post is not contingent on this situation. Many of us have our own anecdotal responses from other situations, so the blog post is not contingent on this particular one.

      • Jane says

        I understand that you are trying to draw a bigger picture, but the comments are not leading in that direction. There is name-calling and people are using personal anecdotes to describe why this instance is a bad thing.

        As a sign language interpreter I pay attention to sounds in a setting. The sound of the child made it difficult for me to hear what was being said. I do not believe on zero-sum games. There is a balance to be found. I do not believe that this post or the comments are working toward finding that balance. When people are saying that Peterson will never be asked back; when Peterson is called a narcissist – what is this? What of the statement that Peterson made from the stage about not knowing how else to handle the situation? What of that? Where was the leadership when he spoke? Or after? Peterson was being honest. He was not mean or rude. I cannot say the same for the comments on this thread.

  25. says

    “verbal and nonverbal communication of the inward manifestation of a command by the Holy Spirit to relate to others something about God’s presence, purpose, and power in one’s life and in the life of all of humanity”

    The “performer” absolutely embodied the above statement. The crying child, in the seat behind me (or maybe a row or two), filled my head like no other sound I had experienced that weekend.

    Perhaps he could have stated the need in a different way–it would be great if we were all able to articulate perfectly the things we need in the least abrupt way on our first attempt. My guess is, knowing him the tiny bit that I do, that he felt atrocious. And hey, what is that saying about sin and stones?

    But if we were at a play or a musical with performers that were paid on stage presenting a work of art and the same thing had happened, they would have been asked to leave also. It is just that the leadership of the show would have done it. That may be what would have been the most appropriate thing…leadership offering help and assistance. Really, moms of kids have stuff to carry and it isn’t simply a matter of scooping a baby up and going. There are other considerations…bags and bags of things!

    Nor is the performer a prima donna or non-compassionate. He is a man with a story and a heart that stretches my heart wide.

    • says

      The key point is that at a play, the person on stage should have told a stage manager or a usher or whatever to help with the situation. At a church, the preacher would have already had in place a structure or a person who was trained how to offer grace in that kind of situation. The event had no structure to help with this situation (to its detriment) and did not offer child care for people under 3yo. So while we can point fingers at the performer or at the event organizers, the point is that structural considerations should be considered beforehand or worked out on the fly, not flailed against from the pulpit (or stage) in the moment. In my opinion.

      • says

        Yes. But is it the performers job to figure this out? In a foreign context…a Quaker midst UMers, not on the leadership team, not aware of what services are available to families or not, I would hazard.

        But what is happening in some comments is a pile-on on the performer. That is set-up by the false dichotomy of performer v preacher. He was human. The child was human. Point at the structural weakness, as you say, not at the performer.

  26. James Oppenheimer says

    I was at a service where we broadcast the service on the radio every week. In an effort to diminish distractions, and to give children a superb experience, children had their own service in another location, and it was a very carefully thought out program.
    At any rate, one Sunday, as our rector, Bill Bradbury of blessed memory was preaching, a child began to cry. The young mother got up to take her out. Bill stopped.
    “Please! Don’t leave! Children’s place is in church!” he said. Knowing how much value is placed on keeping kids out of the service to avoid noises going out on the radio, most of us thought the rector had gone crazy, and he of course had done just that. He was crazy for the Gospel. The radio came second. He wanted to be sure that this mother and child were told, you are welcome! We WANT you here!
    I also figure that he, in a flash of insight, knew this young mother did not know about the children’s service, and by next week, she would. The most important thing was to minister here and now to her needs.
    I’ll never forget that day, and I suspect that woman never will either. The day someone said, “Welcoming you is more important than a smooth radio broadcast.”
    Our job is to love and welcome all of God’s children. The parent’s job is the same, and one way to do that is to do what they need to do to keep distractions to a minimum.

      • Jane says

        Let’ s have a conversation about that then, and let’s not continue to call names and convict one person.

        What do we say to those with psychological disorders for whom this is bothersome? What do we say to those with hearing aids who will not be able to hear anything but the child?

        The title is the piece led me to believe that there would be a discussion about how to handle the situation. What I are is a dividing of thoughts about preaching and performing and which is more anointed and whether one is anointed to do that based on how they handled one situation.

        • says

          First, I wasn’t calling names or convicting one person. As I wrote above, the situation was a jumping-off point for a larger conversation, and I intentionally removed any identifying info initially. The rest came later by the community.

          The title of the piece indicates that how a person responds to a crying child may be useful to categorize them as a preacher or as a performer (which can be a preacher who has a different sense of the sermon than is classically understood). I fail to see how I led you to believe it would be about anointing or about “how to” handle a situation.

          Perhaps hospitality of persons with psychological disorders or people with hearing aids will be a future conversation. Maybe even tomorrow :-)

          • Jane says

            You have not called names, but the comments have. In this form of media, the article does not stand alone, and the author has some responsibility for the content after the piece. I also believe that if a person is used in the content that the person should be

            My comments about those with hearing loss or psychological disorders is in direct line with the crying baby – not a separate item. How do we contend with all needs? How do we build community? Continuing to separate out allows for division to stay.

  27. Jane says

    I have read most of the comments on here and found them interesting; so far I haven’t read anything about the poor people who rely on hearing aids to hear the pastor/speaker/performer. Without trying to be judgmental I would like to ask what are they supposed to do when it is very hard for them to hear the pastor even with the hearing aid, the hearing aid is a wonderful hearing device but it doesn’t just pick up the speakers voice but every other sound in the room? A hearing aid is a small amplifier that can sound in a person’s ear like a huge loud sound system in the ear. When a baby cries (especially if it is in the same area where the child is crying or people are laughing and cut up) it pierces the ears of the person who is now what sounds like screaming at the top of their lungs.

    It’s far better being courteous to those around who really want to hear what the speaker has to say then to wreck their whole evening by allowing anyone to talk during a service.

    It’s wonderful that the pastor can overlook a child crying while he preaches or person who performs but it is very distracting to those who came to hear and receive what the person is saying. And, yes, they can turn the hearing aid down, completely off or stay home but until you’ve experienced an unexpected loud piercing noise it is startling and unnerving.

    From reading this it sounds by some of the comments being made that it’s far more important to let the disruption take place rather then let others hear what’s being said. I am responding to the question as a person who many times does not get to hear because people have been very rude to laugh, talk and make noises in a service. I have never asked anyone to be quiet or to take their child out but I missed a lot of what was being said because I have a hearing problem.

    There just might be a day when those who can’t understand the importance of being quiet may become hard of hearing and will see what hardship it is to want so badly to hear and can’t because of the noisemakers around them. So there’s more to it than just overlooking to someone being distracting in a service.

  28. Linda says

    I really appreciate this post and all of the comments. I think it serves as an excellent way of opening up a dialog on a topic that I believe we need to discuss. There have been a number of very good points made and I hope this is the beginning of working out a way for us to make everyone feel welcome. How do we welcome both the distractors and the distractable? In our church, the sermons are recorded and, presumably, since our pastor is speaking directly into the microphone, the distracting sounds are much less noticeable on the recording. I wonder if it would be helpful to someone who is having difficulty hearing in the service to get the recording and listen to the things they missed later. Since I have a number of friends who either have developmental disorders themselves or have children with disorders, I truly want us to find a way to make them feel welcome in church. At the same time, I have other friends who, for various reasons, suffer from being overwhelmed by distractions that are unbearable to them. How do we find a way to balance these seemingly competing needs?

  29. says

    I regularly invite people to use the cry room… if the children making noise distracts them – THEY can go to the little room with the window and the speaker and be comfortable not hearing the child BUT THE CHILD IS WELCOME to stay in worship because that is the sound of life and life is good in a church!

  30. Wally says

    When I first heard this story, I thought it was a satirical joke from a newspaper like the Onion: “Straight people pay to attend conference where they will learn how to become queer allies. Queer speaker’s presentation gets disrupted by crying baby. Queer speaker asks straight mother with crying baby to leave so he can continue to teach straight people how to be better queer allies, as per his assignment. As a result, straight mother sees herself as oppressed heterosexual minority.” I’m waiting for the followup article, about the museum guard accused of bigotry when she asked a father to leave when his young baby barfed all over the Mona Lisa. “But vomiting can be a tender, beautiful expression of an infant’s creativity! What makes you think the Mona Lisa is a greater work of art than my little baby’s digestive juices?” Parents, your children need you to set a good example for them, of consideration, kindness, co-operation, responsibility, and the avoidance of spurious victimhood and self-pity. So please do your job, and let speakers like this one do theirs.

  31. Georgia says

    Many of the reasons stated here is why I and many parents don’t go to church. I should say I have a son with different abilities that is 20 years old. He thinks and acts as a 2 year old which means he is remarkbly happy, and loves to break out in singing. Which also means since he is taller than me now that I cannot stop this, if he is going to laugh or sing it is going to happen. So we maybe only take him to church 6 times a year, because we get tired of the stares, and the stress of feeling not wanted. In the end we ask what benefit is it? I know for sure that having him in church is better for the community, because he is one of the best representatives of Christ – always loving and available. However, not sure the church is able to see it that way.

  32. says

    This is an interesting post about preaching vs. performing. There’s a powerful message involved, but also some thing that should maybe be reviewed. I do think that what we do is preach and not perform, but I also think that some preachers need a particular level of focus in order to share what they’ve prepared and being easily (or even not so easily) distracted is not a sin. It’s part of our humanity. I definitely think that babies (laughing, crying, quiet, or nursing) should be welcome and celebrated within the worship space. But I don’t think there are clear and perfect rules about how to manage that baby within the group. For the folks who can’t hear to start with, crying or shrill laughter can be painful and frustrating. For the congregants who want to help but don’t know if it’s ok or acceptable to offer help or offer to hold or rock the baby, it can be hard to know whether to offer or not. I get the point of the piece and am grateful I can preach without being easily distracted. I also know that in times of sleeplessness because of my own child’s late nights I lose track easily and can’t get back to where I was in what I was saying. I guess I’d just say, we can all use a little more grace.

  33. Paul says

    its life we will alwyas have something going on that will not go the way we would like it deal with it

    myself I welcome the crying baby and I may just make a lil remark well looks like someone likes what I’m saying or something like that then at the same time the people see its not a big deal as well

    so come on folks lets remember one day they may be the leader of a church and if we dont like a crying baby then we have deeper prob,lems than that

  34. says

    Fascinating discussion. Thanks for that, Jeremy. I find myself having sympathy for all sides involved here. As a pastor, I would love to think I can preach my sermon as a “mouthpiece of God” so to speak and leap over any distractions with a single bound, but as a human, I find this difficult to do. I don’t think I could ever do what Toscano did and call them out, but I know my preaching is affected when I (and the rest of the church) is distracted by long, protracted crying/talking/noise. The occasional squeal, giggle, cry, burp, scurry, etc? No problem! I have 5 kids – they sit on the front row – and I love the sounds of life in the church. But there is a difference between the sounds of life and the sounds of distractions.

    The easy answer to these problems seems obvious, as many have already pointed out: provide child care as a means of hospitality – both for the mother (who would, if she is like my wife, love a chance to worship without having to yell “shhh!” ever 5 seconds) and for the rest of those who gathered to hear God’s word preached.

    Beyond that, the preacher – or the performer – should suck it up, give it their best for God’s glory, and trust that God will use it as God sees fit. We live, Lord willing, to try again next Sunday.

  35. says

    One more thought ….. Do Paul’s instructions about orderly worship have anything to say to this situation (1 Cor. 14:26ff)? How can the exhortation to “let all things be done for building one another up” be helpful here?

  36. Melissa Mobley says

    If the question being addressed is whether or not to send s crying baby or any disruptive child out of worship, then the answer is no. Christ says to let the children come unto me. As a mother of two children, I in no way think the children in the Bible were not ever disruptive. Christ did not send them away so why should we feel privileged to exclude them (and by proxy their caregivers) from worship. It also opens the door to the question of how we respond to other disruptions in worship. I once served in a congregation where one of the middle school students dealt with Terroutes syndrome. At times, he involuntarily created disruptions that some people may have found bothersome but he was never excluded from worship. We need to celebrate God’s creations at every stage of life and admire the diversity with which we are all created. As a pastor, I believe children and the joy they bring to worship is a blessing and believe that God’s word will speak to hungry hearts despite any noise. Not to mention, worship is not an event to be consumed by the people; it is an offering to God. Are we only able to offer worship if every thing is to our liking?

  37. says

    I appreciate that the writer of this blog post attempted to take a real life incident and use it to expand upon a broader general discussion exploring the differences between Preacher and Performer and the place of small children in gathered spaces. The reality though is that the real life incident just occurred at the Reconciling Ministries Convocation of the United Methodist Church, and there are painful raw feelings about what had happened. This brings up other incidents from the past.

    As the Bible Study Leader at the center in this incident, brought in to present positive stories about gender non-conforming people in the Bible, I witnessed the forming of a community that meets once every two years. I am not Methodist myself and have never attended a Methodist service so some of what I saw was was new. Many worlds came together with the largest demographics being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people, and older retired heterosexuals who have been fighting for marriage equality, full inclusion in church, and a place at the table for their sons and daughters and friends. Like most of the LGBTQ religious gatherings I have attended, there was a smaller contingent of young adults and very few children. Thank God this is changing as more and more LGBTQ people–often at great expense–are having our own children, and quickly our meeting spaces are transforming because of the presence of babies and young children. This has been a long time coming.

    Forming community is messy, particularly when we have competing needs. The need for a parent to sit and enjoy a presentation with a child. The need for audience members to hear. The need for the presenter to present. In seeking full inclusion we also have to work out the details in advance so that as many people’s needs as possible are met.

    One area overlooked in the planning of this one event was the question about young children in the auditorium during presentations. In addition to worship services with music, prayer, and preaching–events that regularly take place at churches–there were also committee reports, panel presentations, keynote addresses, and my Bible study which was a hybrid of a classroom lecture and acting of original monologues.

    As the presenter that Saturday morning, I knew what I needed in order to finish my presentation, but I did not know how to ask for what I needed or that I could have asked for it right up front and not in the middle of a dilemma when needs collided. Worship service was over. We had the benediction. We then settled into the Bible study. I presented one story with a comic monologue and then began to set up another with a much more complicated monologue, not comic but serious, one that required full concentration from both me and the audience for it to work. Here is where I switched from Bible teacher to actor. It was in this transition that I heard Henry from my left at around the third row. I couldn’t see much of the audience because of the stage lights.

    Awkwardly, with panic in my head about not being able to present what I had planned on for some months, with confusion and regret over what I was asking for, I tried to explain what I needed, how all sorts of noise can distract me when I am acting including cell phones, how badly I felt about the situation but how I could think of no other solution but to ask the parent and the child to leave. Then I carried on, and immediately afterwards and throughout the weekend and since I anguished over the incident and racked my brain about how I might have done it differently. I recognize that the choice I made was hurtful. I quickly understood how it was unacceptable to do what I did at a Sunday morning service. To say I felt badly about what happened is an understatement.

    What I have heard since is a great deal of judgement, not so much towards me and my actions, but towards parents, especially mothers with small children. Throughout the weekend over 20 people came to me with harsh words about crying babies and about mothers (note not fathers). I recognized that there was no consensus within this group about how to include young children in the gathering. In forming community worlds collided.

    As more and more children become a part of the communities that LGBTQ people and our allies form, we need to thoughtfully find ways to discuss full inclusion and appropriate accommodations so that audience members with hearing impairment, those adults who have never had much experience with children, new parents and seasoned parents, and gay diva performers like me can all have rich and rewarding experiences together. And as we do so, particularly if we are forming a religious community, we can do it with mercy and grace towards mothers and presenters and children and all, assuming the best in everyone.

    • says

      Peterson, thank you for contributing to this discussion. It was important to me that the situation was referenced as a conversation-starter and I didn’t intend to dwell on it extensively. I appreciate your words, not only of this particular situation, but your reflections on what it meant as a whole to other situations as well. Blessings.

    • Carole Vincent says

      Thank you, Peterson, for coming and for your thoughtful, informative insights, delivered with charm and humor. I had forgotten about the disturbance of the child, but I’ve remembered your presentations! Hope to hear you again.
      (one of the “older, retired heterosexuals” happily present that day… speaking of the elders, whose children were noisy and whose grands carry on that tradition!)

  38. Shirley says

    Firstly, the title of this piece has the word ‘crying’ in it so you can hardly blame people for assuming that the child was crying. But apparently he was merely making a lot of noise…

    Also, on the church being inclusive- this wasn’t a church service, it was a conference. But if the place was ‘inclusive’ it would have had a creche where the ‘sermon’ was piped in, as many churches do, so that parents don’t have to miss out and kids can be as vocal as they like. I am not sure why people assume that everyone in the audience should be delighted to have a vocal child interrupt a conference that they are attending. I would find it very annoying, personally.

    • says

      As I posted in the first paragraph, the “crying” language was removed after I updated the paragraph after the parent involved gave her experience as well as listening to it firsthand on the livestream archive.

      • Shirley says

        It’s still in the title, but fair enough, it’s not actually the point anyway as the mother of the child has already said that he is a ‘very vocal’ child.

        • Shirley says

          I have just watched the video of Peterson’s performance. that child was making a LOT of noise over several minutes. I think it’s a shame that nobody working at the conference or in a leadership position went over and asked the parent to leave so that Peterson didn’t have to. I am a parent myself and I don’t think it’s fair that people who paid to be at that conference should have to put up with a very noisy child. Obviously it’s not the child’s fault but it is the parent’s responsibility not to let their child disrupt public events if at all possible.

  39. Carolyn Bolton says

    My goodness. I’m reeling! The ranting and name-calling and pontification in much of this commentary! So let me add my thoughts (and please, call it “pontification” if you need to put it in a tidy box).

    This is NOT about “women’s rights of full participation”. Dear Lord in heaven above. What if it had been a man holding this baby and choosing to stay in the midst of the performance rather than slipping out until the wee babe calmed? It leaves me aghast that this has become a judgment about borderline misogyny.

    This is NOT about wee babes being welcome or unwelcome in the House of the Lord. No one would refute the truth that children are future congregation members, that whole families are widely welcomed by churches.

    I do think there is debate to be had about the differences between preaching and performance … but it will be really tough to accomplish cleanly. You and I both know it … many many preachers ARE performers at the pulpit, it just isn’t overtly acknowledged so concisely as being theatrical arts. That’s cool by me. Truly!

    The issue here is fundamentally one of community. This wasn’t a church service, it was a presentation piece in a conference. An “elective” so to speak. And those in the community in that room at the time of this performance were those who chose this elective over others that were available. BECAUSE they wanted to see and hear it. Any member of that community, therefore, signs on (without speaking, without published ‘ground rules’) to hold the highest good of the community as their primary purpose … with their own learning and experience naturally a close second.

    The child’s mom acknowledges above that people around her and her wee one were casting glances, trying to engage the baby to calm him … others who were present acknowledge that the child’s crying distracted them … clearly the mom was distracted as well, and not giving attention to the performance … the child himself could not possibly take one iota of value away from the performance, crying or not. SO IF the mother was conscious about her actual role of participating in the community of those in the room who were there for the performance, she would have had the courtesy to slip out. Even her role as a mama would engender her attention, when faced with her baby’s messaging that it had needs not being met in that environment, would find a calm quiet place to soothe her child rather than creating a scene where her child was the focus of many around her … rather than the performance for which they were all gathered.

    I’m not cold-hearted. Truly I’m not. I was the mother of two wee ones born only 16 months apart some years ago, and am now the proud gramma of grandkids aged 6, 4 and 3. I LOVE KIDS! Mine … and many others. But as the guardian of those wee ones, I believe we are called upon to attend to their needs first and foremost. When they’re a bit older and can engage in audible conversation, teaching them to sit quietly while someone is performing is a beautiful lesson. But a crying baby can’t ‘grock’ that lesson. It only knows that it is uncomfortable, or in pain, or hungry, or needs something different to be happening. Everyone in the room ought not have to be part of that parental window of analysis to interpret their child’s needs.

    I’m concerned that the whole battle for women to have the right to breastfeed publicly — which I wholeheartedly support! — has been broad-brush painted into a platform where moms of small ones have the right to do anything with their children while in large groups, regardless of setting or group purpose.

    The fact that this mom attended no more sessions of the conference speaks subliminally of the reality that she knows a different handling of the situation would have been in the best interest of the entire attending community. Certainly she isn’t portraying an act of adolescent “I’ll take my toys and go home” behavior. Certainly not…. ….

    Living in community we must all adopt a spirit of compassion and understanding for “the other” and a keen awareness of what is good for the WHOLE. Ergo, no cell phones ringing during church (ideally) … or in the movie theatre. We don’t talk out loud and hold entire conversations (off-topic or not!) in the middle of church with the individual seated by us. Moms don’t change their babies’ diapers there on the church pew (or on the floor, if they’re in a church that is pew-less) during services, so as not to miss a moment of the service. Mama’s don’t carry their children into the choir, and put the entire choir into a situation of torture over trying to hear one another or staying in sync or on pitch while the baby wails.

    The perceived rights of “one” do not overshadow the purpose of the whole.
    The bottom line? This is a question of simple courtesy.
    Period.

  40. Shirley says

    Here is the video of Peterson’s performance (see from about about 1:29). I would encourage people to watch it before they offer comment, and I also request that the blogger includes this link in the original post so that people can see/hear what actually happened. The ‘look of frustration’ appears to be absent on this video, for example and the original post also failed to mention Peterson’s polite thank you and that he said he felt bad about it. But it would be good if everyone commenting had been able to see it for themselves.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc3RshSFptA&feature=youtu.be

  41. Scott Amundsen says

    There’s just one thing wrong here: the person in question NEVER CLAIMED TO BE A PREACHER. He might have been leading a Bible study, but he stated on more than one occasion that he is an ACTOR AND PERFORMANCE ARTIST.

    That being said, what he did was extremely unprofessional as a performer. I recall he muttered something about his concentration. Well, at University I was trained for the stage and what I was taught was that your level of concentration had to be so deep that theoretically a bomb could go off in the theatre and the show would continue.

    So let me be clear: I do not approve of what he did. But to hold him to the standards of a preacher when he repeatedly stated that he was NOT one is pushing it.

  42. says

    As someone who used to preach a lot and has performed more recently in church plays, there is a huge difference between the two. If a child was making too much noise I would continue preaching but shifting up my volume, usually the parent got the hint and the child was quietened or removed, and I lowered my voice to normal.
    In a sermon the focus is on the words, but in a performance it is as much on how those words are spoken. I have gained a lot from witnessing Peterson Toscano perform on several occasions, he is an excellent actor and makes great use of his voice (intonation, volume, accent, pitch). Shifting up his volume would not work in acting mode, and as noted above he made his request at the point where he was going to shift into a performance piece.
    The actor who commented negatively above is not representative of his profession, I am fortunate to live in London within easy reach of its West End theatres and such noise would not have been tolerated, the theatre staff and not a performer would have removed the mother and child.
    Jane is right to ask that a thought is spared for the deaf, but we do not all use hearing aids, so you do not necessarily know if we are near you. I have background deafness with a rear focus, so if Henry had been chatting to all and sundry behind my head, I would not have been able to make out the performance clearly no matter how loud Peterson delivered his lines.

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