September 24, 2012

A Delicate Issue of Inclusion

The annual clergy spouse weekend retreat for the Indiana Conference concluded today. The event went smoothly except for one thing--a young clergy spouse brought her six month-old baby, whom she was still nursing and was promptly asked to return home, because of the baby.

Fortunately, a retired member of the event offered to care for the infant, so that this mother could attend the lectures, discussions, and participate in meals.

Many clergy spouses were upset that this young woman was asked to leave.

Other comments included, "The baby is a distraction." "Even if she takes the baby into the hall, the noise he makes is still a distraction to the program."

The conference wants to encourage all spouses to come, but an infant appearing, the first time in many years, took everyone off guard.

The retreat planning committee meets in a few weeks to discuss this year's event, and to get ideas for next year. I wonder, how do other conferences handle mothers who need to bring infants? Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you!!!!

Jacquie Reed
Fishers, Indiana


  1. Sorry, but frankly, I am horrified at what the group did! If it were me, I'd never come back and neither will any of my friends. In our conference, our retreat has had young mothers in the past (only a few) and welcome small children. Who cares that they might be a distraction. They are also a lot of fun. Too often getting child care is a problem and many mothers can't attend without their children. What is the point of the retreat if it isn't to be supportive and get to know each other? We've even had retirees bring their spouses, because they didn't have another way to get there. I guess your group needs to decide what is most important. But I can't imagine turning anyone away. In our conference, the program is only an excuse to get together.

  2. I've never thought the infants at our retreat were any kind of distraction. Gosh, if a woman can't nurse and care for her infant in the company of other women, there is a serious problem.

    I admit I might not feel the same about older toddlers that were ambulatory and unsupervised, but if a child is nursing then the mom is more than welcome to bring her baby.

  3. Terrible! They would never see me again.

  4. Someone important once said, "Let the little children come to me." MT 19.6

  5. There must be something more to the story. Did the registration forms indicate she was bringing a baby? was she told prior to coming that having a child there would be a distraction? was it a silent retreat? I'm not condoning the message given to a nursing mother, I'm just trying to find a reason for what seems like an insensitive act on the part of Christians, many of whom probably are mothers.

    God bless the person who offered to babysit the child so the mother could participate.

  6. Two thoughts:
    1. At a time when one of the main concerns of the church is the lack of young clergy, this treatment of a nursing mother (presumably married to a relatively young clergy) is horrifying. It seems that that the spouses group would want to welcome young spouses and all the joys and challenges that come with young spouses. If the church cannot be a welcoming place for families, then what organizations will be?

    2. I nursed my daughter for a year and she went with me everywhere, including a professional (non-religious)conference. When she was fussy, I discreetly left the room. From the comments I received, I felt that my daughter was warmly welcomed.

    If we wish to be a place of open hearts, open minds, open doors, we must welcome people where they are!

  7. How very sad for all concerned. It's possible the person(s) who made the comment had second thoughts after reflecting on the situation. The nursing mother will remember this her whole life. Do you think she will want to be part of this group in the future?'' Do you think other mothers with young children will want to be part of the group?
    It seems to me the planning group for the next retreat needs to go out of their way to welcome mothers and little children. In some circles it's called 'damage control,' in others, Christian hospitality.