We start the new programme year with the Creation story, and every year it makes me anxious.
The media is constantly full of stories of Creationists and New Atheists butting heads with each other, and the whole thing makes me nervous. Are kids going to think we're a Creationist church? Are the parents? If I hedge the telling of the story with enough qualifications, will they understand the concept of myth and metaphor? If I hedge the telling of the story with too many qualifications, will I destroy their ability to work out the concepts of myth and metaphor for themselves? If I present it as fact and they later find out about evolution, will they throw out EVERYTHING they learned in church? If I present it as myth, will they assume that EVERYTHING in the Bible is "just a story"?
It's enough to drive me crazy.
But strangely, the children don't seem to have a problem with it. Their delight in the repetition - "And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning ...", their joy at seeing the world created bit by bit, brought out of nothingness by the exuberant creative spirit of God, is untouched by all the grown-up nonsense that surrounds them. They know that God made the world, and they know, from school, that animals have developed adaptations to their habitats, and they don't yet see a conflict between those two ideas.
I wish all adults could be so sensible.
I've settled for telling the story, pretty much straight, using the Genesis text almost verbatim, but I do throw the question, "I wonder if God is still making the world" into our post-story discussion. Just in case any of the kids are anxious about it too.
But that's not the direction they took with the question yesterday. Instead they used that question to adamantly insist that God was involved not only with the initial act of creation however many billions of years ago, but also in the individual creation of each individual person now. One child was envisioning God putting people together in space and shooting them down to earth to be born.
I also asked them why God made the world. Maybe he was lonely, they suggested. Maybe he was bored. One child, who had been fidgeting and seeking attention through most of the lesson said, "maybe he wanted people to share the Holy Spirit with."
Maybe he did.