Olivia Newport baby's toyI knew the baby was behind me and to the left. I was supposed to be looking forward. It was church. The pastor was preaching. Pay attention!

But those tiny sucking noises. The little pop when the pacifier breaks suction. The coo that probably came in response to a young mother making a slightly silly face. The shuffling of moving a baby from lap to shoulder. The vocal burst with the potential of a cry.

Sounds of a baby in church.

I wanted to turn my head. Okay, I admit I did. The baby was tiny and swathed in pink. A girl.

I was so glad the mom brought the baby to worship. I was glad the mom wanted to be in worship strongly enough to go through the rigmarole that comes with taking a small baby out of the house. I was glad people were glad to have mother and baby there. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” made poignant sense to me in that moment.

One of the best gifts we can give little children is to embrace them as part of the faith community right from the start—not just when they’re old enough to sit quietly in church.

My mind wandered to two-year-old Seth, who had been behind me in church on more than one occasion. He always said, “Amen” a half beat after everyone else, but he was eager to participate. He echoed the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer as well, making me smile at his earnest effort. He gave his hand freely when it was time to share the peace of the Lord before communion. He went forward with his mother and, in her arms, received a spoken blessing from the pastor as she received the bread and cup. Did he sometimes make a ruckus in the pew? Of course. He was two.

If a baby needs to be walked in the back during worship, I’ve been known to offer my services. My friend Cyndy sometimes thinks she is going to get her hands on that baby, but I like to get there first. This is the very beginning of faith formation for that child, the first experience of belonging to the people of God.

The next time you hear a baby in church, whether cooing or wailing, remember to offer the warm embrace of a faith community and be glad both parents and baby are in your midst.