Toddlers during preaching

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(^^)Regin

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello Everyone,

I would like to get your consensus regarding having toddlers during the preaching of God's Word.

  • If you were the one with toddler, would you insist having child during the preaching, believing in faith that God is working in the child regardless of his or her behavior and comprehension.

  • Or would you consider to bring the child away from the sanctuary to allow your brothers and sisters to hear and understand what is being preached.

:worms:

Your insights are highly appreciated.
 
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dyarashus

Puritan Board Freshman
You need some other choices there.

Families being together during the preaching of God's word should be considered normative. This doesn't happen by accident ... it takes training, and that takes practice and patience. The DfPW offers guidelines of behavior in public worship that include "... the people are wholly to attend upon it ... abstaining much more from all ... indecent behavior, which may disturb the minister or people, or hinder themselves or others in the service of God."

Therefore, there are adequate grounds in the standards to make it clear that a toddler who is excessively disruptive should be removed from the service. For that matter, an adult who is disruptive is in the same category.

On the other hand, this is an area where some need to work on their charity. The Son of God admitted little children into his presence, embracing them and blessing them, and we should do no less. A baby may make some baby noises without being excessively disruptive, just as an adult may sneeze or make some other involuntary noises that are reasonably tolerated. Congregations and pastors deal with various levels of distractions differently ... I've heard good sermons preached over snoring old men and over crying babies, and I've seen families seriously offended when they were rebuked from the pulpit for allowing a child to distract a minister (when the distraction seemed slight indeed to me).

If a distraction is such that it reasonably and significantly disturbs the service, it should be dealt with. A child refusing to obey, for example, and throwing some sort of tantrum should be abundantly clear as intolerable in the service for several reasons. A little baby making a brief, quickly satisfied cry for milk, however, is well within what should be tolerated.

In short, I argue that children should be in the service during the preaching regardless of their comprehension -- which will grow over time, but not regardless of their behavior, which needs to meet reasonable minimum standards so as not to create an undue burden on the other members of the congregation or their minister.
 

(^^)Regin

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks

dyarashus,

thank you for your reply, I highly appreciate your points. :up:

I hope others will respond as well unless everything that needs to be said is said.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
Hello Everyone,

I would like to get your consensus regarding having toddlers during the preaching of God's Word.

  • If you were the one with toddler, would you insist having child during the preaching, believing in faith that God is working in the child regardless of his or her behavior and comprehension.

  • Or would you consider to bring the child away from the sanctuary to allow your brothers and sisters to hear and understand what is being preached.

:worms:

Your insights are highly appreciated.

The scriptural position is "suffer the little children to come onto me, and forbid them not."

It isn't a parents choice for the most part. While I can see that some parents prefer to not have their children in the service (it is far more disruptive to the parents than to anyone else, I assure you) it is not Biblical to spirit the children off to somewhere else. Those children are a blessing from the Lord, and they are a blessing to the entire church, and if they are not so disruptive that the pastor would not be able to preach, then they ought be in the hearing of the word of God. I have never complained or thought that a baby crying ought to be taken out of a worship service. I know some mothers do leave in order to nurse their babies in private, but we are worshipping God, and not in a teaching seminar. God is glorified by children being in the worship service, and it is God that is the "audience" to the worship, not the people.

While I hope this does not come across as abrasive, I truly believe our society in general, and even some churches, have lost sight of the fact that children are supposed to be in worship. And yes, that means that worship will not be silent all the time.
 

(^^)Regin

Puritan Board Freshman
Brian,

thank you for the post I appreciate your points as well. :up:

I still welcome any insights :D
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Even if a toddler might struggle to understand a preached concept that is rather abstract, there are always parts of the sermon that they can understand and contemplate. Let us take an example of a pastor is preaching on the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. A toddler may not be able to comprehend the fullness of the doctrine of providence, however, he can understand simple things like "Joseph's brothers were mean to him" and "Joseph was a very important man in Egypt. He sold grain to people who didn't have any food". Items like this set the stage for a toddler to grow in his ability to study and understand the Bible.

The pastor at my home church in Canada makes use of lunchtime on the Lord's Day to ask questions to his children about his sermon. I remember observing this for the first time. What I saw was that his youngest son at the time, who had not yet turned 3 years old, was able to answer a simple question about the sermon. This told me two things: 1) if trained properly, a 2 year old can listen; and 2) there is always some simple concept or fact that a toddler can understand.

At the very, very least, a young child will understand that he is being included, that the man in the pulpit is saying important things, and that this is a very special thing that the family does every week.
 

Repre5entYHWH

Puritan Board Freshman
i came from a church that had a huge nursery and it was weird to allow kids in service it was nice that we didn't have to deal with our daughter durring that time and we got to hear the sermon, then i switched to RCUS who encouraged me to have my daughter in service, it's hard (shes only 20 months) shes very loud and very we have to take her out for a whoopin at least 4 times a service we hardly get to hear any of the sermon.

although it maybe hard i wouldn't have it any other way, in the covenantal community i already see the care of the congregation toward my child and the fruit that has come from it.

funny story: the pastor was talking about our selfishness and comparing it to the seagulls in finding nemo "mine mine" right then i took something away from my daughter and she scram "MINE!!" very embarrassing... (but funny)
 

CatherineL

Puritan Board Freshman
funny story: the pastor was talking about our selfishness and comparing it to the seagulls in finding nemo "mine mine" right then i took something away from my daughter and she scram "MINE!!" very embarrassing... (but funny)

LOL, at least you know she was listening!

My church has no nursery at the moment - just a room with a monitor so you can hear the service, and some toys. It serves as the nursing mom/screaming toddler room. I actually find this a pretty nice set up, although several visiting families have not joined because of the lack of nursery. :um:

Not sure from the OP if you just wanted opinions or if you're looking for advice dealing with toddlers in the service. If not, please disregard the following. :) Ok, some babies are generally laid back and can be in the service without making too much noise. I have friends who have these kinds of kids, so I know they exist, but the Lord has not decided to give me any so far. What I've found is that by 3 years even the most excitable child can be taught to sit and be generally still and quiet during worship. This takes training at home, not just once a week at church. We - and I know some other families on the PB - use family worship time as a good training time. I will also do "quiet sit time" throughout the day while I school my older child or when things are just a bit too crazy and I want to take it down a notch. My just turned 3 year old had pretty much mastered this by 2.5 years, but I would sometimes take her out when I took my youngest out, just so my husband would only have one to look after.

That said, I also have an 18 month old who is also pretty high energy. We do sit time with him too, but 15 minutes is about his tops, and that only covers the scripture reading and *maybe* the prayer of confession. I generally don't keep him in the service the whole time. Usually about 10 minutes into the sermon he's pretty restless so I retreat to the nursery room and let him toddle around while I listen to the sermon. I want my kids to be in the service as early as possible, but the fact is that lots of people are very distracted by a toddler babbling, even if not crying unhappily. Our church isn't officially Family Integrated, so I choose to leave the service since there's a reasonable alternative.
 

Soonerborn

Puritan Board Freshman
We have a 6 year old, 4 year old, 2 year old, and 2 month old.

Since the birth of our first child, we have always had our children in worship with us. Our church does not have nursery during worship for children over the age of 2.

I admit it is very hard work to get the children to sit quietly and participate. The easy thing would be to put them in the nursery but I really feel like they need to sit under the preached word and paticipate in worship weekly, just like I need to. The have been marked with the sign of the covenant, so they should participate in the gathering of the covenant community.

Our primary mode of training is nightly family worship. We sit on our couch exactly like we do in the pew - ie seating arrangements are the same. We have about a 15 minute time of praying, reading scripture, and singing each night. For the most part, our 6 year old and 4 year old does good - have to shush them occaisonally. The 2 year old sits on my lap only. He is so wiggly but I hold him tightly and if he gets out of control, I excuse myself and discipline him.

I must say though that every child has a different temperment when they are very small. What I have found for most of our children is that they are ready to sit through all the service when they are about 20 months or so. Prior to that, the make it for about 15-20 minutes or so and I have to take them to the back or listen to the sermon in the library with them.


This regular time of family worship I believe really prepares and trains them for corporate worship. On the practical side, it trains them to sit still and participate in worship. At dinner time, I also try to "encourage" them to sit still during eating and I think this nightly practice may also help train them to sit still. By no means do I think I am doing everything right. We often have "melt downs" - if you know what I mean. I pray God is redeeming our efforts to train our children.

Regarding the preached word, I pray that God is opening their hearts to receive the word. Often, my 6 and 4 year old will make comments after church about some point the pastor made so I pray that God is allowing them to "hear" the word.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
It is ideal that your whole family is together during public worship, but I think a nursery is beneficial and appropriate in many cases. As Mike mentioned, every child is different. There is a massive difference between the abilities of my two children to sit still. My daughter (almost 3) is highly active, and it has required a lot of patience on our part. We just recently have gotten her to sit through the church service, but it took over 2.5 years. Most of that time she was in the nursery, because I would rather wait until she is physically able to sit quietly than to spank her several times each week for the first 2.5 years of her life.
 

MMasztal

Puritan Board Sophomore
The churches I have attended have "cry rooms" which is a room at the rear of the sanctuary with double paned glass for sound isolation and a loudspeaker so the parent can still watch and hear the service/sermon without disturbing the other people present.
 

puritanpilgrim

Puritan Board Junior
I am having a really difficult time with this. Sunday and wednesday night my church does not have nursery. I have a four year old, two year old and a one year old. And we have another due in March. This isn't a "family integrated church" either. My son has gone to the service since he was three, but he still gets at least one spanking every sunday, some weeks he has received more than I care to put in print. Honestly, I don't get a whole lot out of church these two nights. We do family worship every day except sunday and wednesday. And lately I've been reading two chapters strait to my children just to work on their ability to sit down and be quiet. We also do catacism and memory verses. That is close to thirty minutes they have to sit. I think if I went to a church where many people brought their kids into the service it would be easier, but I'm the only one with kids who come into the service at these times. Although I think it is good for my four year old. He's old enough to do it, I don't know what the others really get out of it. And I can't imagine many people would bother to put up with what I have done for the past year. My two year old has no idea what is going on, and after 30 minutes she get loud. My one year old won't stop trying to preach unless I stand up and walk her around. I'm still new to having kids. And I'm sure this may get easier after I have done it once. But, I spend a lot of time dealing with my kids during the church service. Much more time doing that, than listening to the service. I remember the days when I would sing and sit down and listen to the sermon. I starting to think I may not have that experience for many years to come.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
At our church all children sit with the parents, not because of any moral conviction but because we don't have anywhere else to put them. I know this intimidates visiting families and we would be a bigger church if we did have some kind of nursery or cry room.

I will say this, however, that we do not have any problems having children with us for the sermon. I don't really understand the mentality that children necessarily cause a distraction any more than some adults.
 

CatherineL

Puritan Board Freshman
Raising Godly Tomatoes

This article was helpful to me when I first started training little ones to sit in church. It might be what you all are already doing, but posting it just in case it might help.

I think you're right Aaron - most people are not at all interested in little ones being in the service that early. A lot of people don't even think its possible for a 4 year old to sit and be attentive, so of course think its ridiculous to expect a 2 year old. We're in a similar situation with our kids' ages - we actually have stopped doing the Sunday evening community groups for that reason - I wasn't benefiting from the adult discussion time since I just spent the whole time juggling kids, and my husband didn't want us to go if not as a whole family. We're also one of the few families in our church with little ones, and the only ones with so many under 5.
 

Jon Peters

Puritan Board Sophomore
We are in the process of training our fourth. My first three (9,8, and 7) are pretty good. They don't make much noise and generally sit still. I can listen to the whole sermon and participate in all of worship. The task now that my older ones can sit through church is to get them to pay attention. The training never stops.

Although my first three were tough to train, my fourth and youngest (2 yrs old) is by far the toughest. He will be quiet and still until we get to the pew. Some of this may have to do with our parenting style (it's changed over the course of four kids), but also, he is just an active kid. My oldest was (and is) quite active and was tough, but this new guy, boy oh boy!

I think that much of the advice given thus far has been very good. Family worship should be your training ground. Cry rooms are great. I encourage the use of them when the child becomes too distracting in church. Make sure he/she has to sit and obey even in the cry room.

Finally, there is no "one size fits all" model of training. Be flexible and don't be legalistic about methods. And try not to stress yourself out. Your kids will learn eventually.

-----Added 10/16/2009 at 02:06:36 EST-----

Keep plying them with sweeties.

We used to come fully stocked with food, drink, books, etc. We found that all of these items just made things worse. Now we being a sippy cup of water and maybe some goldfish or something. We do allow a hotwheel or something like that, but that can be distracting as well. My youngest threw his hotwheel into the aisle last week twice.
 

CatherineL

Puritan Board Freshman
-----Added 10/16/2009 at 02:06:36 EST-----

Keep plying them with sweeties.

[/QUOTE] We used to come fully stocked with food, drink, books, etc. We found that all of these items just made things worse. Now we being a sippy cup of water and maybe some goldfish or something. We do allow a hotwheel or something like that, but that can be distracting as well. My youngest threw his hotwheel into the aisle last week twice.[/QUOTE]

Our experience has been similar. Also, apparently many older (without little children at least people at our church are very irritated by the sound of children eating. At least, a friend of mine whose 3 year old was munching cheerios during the service and got an earful about it from an older woman sitting in front of her. So, even if the food keeps them quiet, some people will still be distracted. Its almost enough to make you want to home church sometimes.
 

Megan Mozart

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks to everyone for your input. I just love reading these threads about parenting. I have no children myself so I feel so blessed to read the wisdom of so many in order to help prepare for parenthood someday, Lord willing. :)
 

HokieAirman

Puritan Board Freshman
At least, a friend of mine whose 3 year old was munching cheerios during the service and got an earful about it from an older woman sitting in front of her.

This probably isn't very charitable, but the lady probably should have kept her mouth shut and sat somewhere else next week...your poor friend probably has enough to deal with without people chastising her! Munching Cheerios is much better than other bodily sounds she could have been making!

My 2 yr old still has to be taken out of the service from time to time and we were very nervous moving from a 100% family integrated church to one that offers a nursery. I believe it is best to keep the children in the service. If Charlie has to be taken out and disciplined, the goal is to always bring him back into the service. Lately, it only takes once and he's an angel the rest of the time...and believe me...he's a live wire every other waking hour!

A dear friend suggested that I 'preach' during family worship while mom was holding him, in order to prepare him for church. For that to work, however, family worship becomes more of a training ground than an edifying time of worship.

Another suggestion was for the mother to handle the discipline of the children during the worship service and for the father to take notes on the sermon and relay it to his wife later. This never quite worked for us because of my short attention span!
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
At least, a friend of mine whose 3 year old was munching cheerios during the service and got an earful about it from an older woman sitting in front of her. So, even if the food keeps them quiet, some people will still be distracted. Its almost enough to make you want to home church sometimes.

I'm glad I wasn't around. I would have hopefully gently told the older woman that her response was offensive to me because she was putting her own "edification" from the worship of God ahead of the body of Christ. If the older woman had been kind, and helpful in helping instruct the child, quietly so as not to embarrass the parents, then I would commend them (if it was done with gentleness and kindness as a 3 year old would need). Giving the 3 year-old "an earful" was more along the lines of making sure your friend got the "earful" rather than the child. The woman needs to see that the service does not exist for individuals to be edified, but for the body to worship. If she was distracted, then she should have all the more asked God for the grace to worship him properly. Worship is what we are to do in all our lives ... if we cannot worship without distraction, then we are not worshipping but a very small part of our lives.

It is true that the corporate worship is a special time, but insisting that it is a time for adults and older children that can remain quite to worship means that it is not the whole body that worships. While my earlier post I wanted to emphasize that parents ought to bring their children to worship as a duty, here I would emphasize that the whole of the congregation should make sure they do not think they are the central figure of worship to exclude children. Those without children often would rather there not be any sounds from children, but that is not what the Bible teaches. It even promotes the idea of children talking and asking questions during the passover (Exo 12:26). Children are not "to be seen and not heard" but are to be present during the service, and they should be encouraged to ask questions.

An older woman you would hope would have a sense of charity toward the parents. While the woman was talking to the child, I'd be very surprised if the words where not chosen to impact the mother (otherwise the mother would never have heard them).
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think that, to the extent possible, people should avoid spanking children for not sitting still in church. It makes kids dread going to church and associate it with punishment. Some toddlers aren't really mentally capable of the type of self-control required to sit still for an hour, and it's torture for both the parent and child to expect it. I really like the cry-room with the sermon piped in over the speaker. The problem (if I may voice a personal pet-peeve) is that people will go back there and TALK during the sermon, which really defeats the purpose of the speaker system in the cry room ...

Around school-age, though, I think kids should be included in the service. But no one would expect a toddler to go to college and sit through Chemistry 101 quietly, and I don't know why they expect them to sit still in church, and I think parents should have another option available (for one thing, what if the kid is autistic? or what if someone has a foster child with fetal alcohol syndrome?)

I do think people should be VERY reluctant to rebuke ANYONE from the pulpit, unless the kid is setting fires or something. That's a fast-track to encouraging people with small or disabled children not to go to church at all, if they know they risk being publicly humiliated.

As for people complaining about kids munching Cheerios... really, the complainer should sit somewhere else if it bothers them that much. People pick on kids for being 'distracting' because they are easy targets, but really, old folks can be almost as distracting. There's a guy who used to go to my church who cleaned out his ear with his finger quite thoroughly during every sermon--dig, inspect, chew, dig, inspect ... That was pretty distracting. :duh:
 

Carolyn

Puritan Board Freshman
We had our children in the service with us from the beginning. We brought a bag with things in it. I think there were Cheerios for awhile, but I don't remember anymore. As the children grew, they were required to set aside their "thing" for more and more of the service. The bag stayed at home when the youngest was starting Kindergarten. They always had to set aside their "thing" for prayers.

We did not get much out of services for a number of years. There were other things we missed as well. We missed all of the 90's in terms of movies, music, and most television shows. We had no vacations except to visit family. We ate in very few restaurants, including McDonald's.

In 2009, it makes no difference we missed those things. The guys are 20 and 22 now and attend church willingly and quietly! We're probably better off having missed Nirvana and Seinfeld, and most of the sermons from the one church we attended.

The next thread should be, "How to keep teenagers awake and alert in church when they have Saturday night closing jobs!" :lol:

Patience and Perseverance! Time is going to take care of so much of this.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
If a kid is old enough to be walk, the kid is old enough to be spanked. The first two Reformed churches I attended in California were that way, as well as all the Afrikaans churches I attended in South Africa. The whole family stays in church. If a baby cries, he's taken out and comforted as to no bother the service. If a toddler misbehaves, he's taken out and spanked, just like if it were in his room at home. Whole churches, large churches where there were hardly any distractions, and the kids usually join when they are older.

Now days kids do whatever they want, and parents angrily assume their kids have a right to bad behavior. All seven of my kids attend church of their own free will (two I do not believe are saved) and they were spanked from the time they were toddlers, and all sat still during church, even when the service was too long. That was the rule in Reformed churches from the start and it makes me sick to see what American Christian society as come to. If you don't spank your son you hate him.
 

(^^)Regin

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello Everyone,

I highly appreciate all your post regarding this matter. It is very good for me to see perspective from different people and It gives me encouragement to see you all posting your response(s).

Thank you,
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
I expect to be thoroughly attacked, but here goes:

I roll my eyes whenever I attend a church that lauds itself for being "family integrated," er, Biblical, when as the sermon starts - if not much sooner, sometimes as soon as we are told to be seated after the invocation! - multiple kids turn around in their seats, mothers pull out boxes of crayons and notepads from their purses or diaper bags and the kids spend the rest of the service using their seat as a table on which they just draw pictures. This, in addition to the occasional "mommy, look at what I drew!" and I literally will not accept the proposition that these kids are getting anything from the sermon, at least not anything that is substantive enough to justify the distraction they cause to others, not least their own parents. I've been to several good churches who used that time to actually teach my children at their level and they came home having actually learned. Wanna know how I got into catechesis? The Baptist church we attended did it with the kids during children's church - and they did it very well - and my kids were learning the catechism and I was amazed at how much truth they were learning. Prior to that point I had never heard of catechesis.

I loathe the idea that the kids in some congregations are literally prohibited from the sanctuary, but I almost equally deplore the pressure placed upon parents in other churches to keep them in the sanctuary during the service. In my estimation, it should be the parents' choice.

I utterly and completely and absolutely reject the notion that Jesus letting kids sit on his lap while he blessed them, and that his words of rebuke to his disciples for attempting to keep those children away while Jesus was in a crowd, necessarily constitute a "biblical requirement" that we MUST keep the kids in the sanctuary during worship service. I reference the Baptist church which catechized my children - they most certainly didn't keep them from Christ. Some here seem to be so worried about the spiritual "edification" that a toddler can supposedly draw from a sermon that they forget that they should be worried about the edification of older attendees as well.

At the end of the day, here is my counsel to parents:

Don't let anyone here make you think your conscience is bound by theirs, no matter how piously they argue. If you want your kids in the sanctuary no matter what, and if you think that is the way it should be, then seek out that kind of church.

However...

If you are finding that you almost dread public worship because you end up spending your time playing sheriff rather than being able to worship and each Lord's Day is traumatic for you and your kids... To you I say - YOU need to be able to worship, and YOU need to take care of your own soul (not merely your child's). If you are finding that you WANT to put your kids in a nursery but can't in your current context... talk to your elders about it. If they refuse to budge, find another church. (! Yep, I said it.)

I'm very careful to remind myself of this truth: It is possible to literally beat your kids into compliance. That is, you CAN spank your kids to the point that they will sit still in the worship service. But that doesn't mean anything beyond the fact that they have learned to fear your lash. REMEMBER: As I survey the history of Christianity, I see that the "historic model" (if that is what it can be called) of keeping children in the service is literally no more effective at passing on serious Christianity to multiple generations than is the model that is based upon an awareness of different types of learning and teaching styles being effective for different ages.

There are good nurseries and there are bad ones, find a good one. For instance, I encourage everyone who can to go visit Bethlehem Baptist Church (Piper's church). There they take their ministry to the children very seriously and I think it would serve as a model for me should I ever plant a church.
 
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Bern

Puritan Board Freshman
Repre5entYHWH:funny story: the pastor was talking about our selfishness and comparing it to the seagulls in finding nemo "mine mine" right then i took something away from my daughter and she scram "MINE!!" very embarrassing... (but funny)

I always thought the seagulls were saying "mate", because they're Australian!
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
If a kid is old enough to be walk, the kid is old enough to be spanked. The first two Reformed churches I attended in California were that way, as well as all the Afrikaans churches I attended in South Africa. The whole family stays in church. If a baby cries, he's taken out and comforted as to no bother the service. If a toddler misbehaves, he's taken out and spanked, just like if it were in his room at home. Whole churches, large churches where there were hardly any distractions, and the kids usually join when they are older.

Now days kids do whatever they want, and parents angrily assume their kids have a right to bad behavior. All seven of my kids attend church of their own free will (two I do not believe are saved) and they were spanked from the time they were toddlers, and all sat still during church, even when the service was too long. That was the rule in Reformed churches from the start and it makes me sick to see what American Christian society as come to. If you don't spank your son you hate him.

Tim, I don't think anyone said anything about not spanking a child at all. I said I prefer not to spank them for not sitting still in church when they are toddlers. It's an odd thing about discussing discipline that people sometimes see it as having no middle ground ... people either can smack their kids for any reason, or not at all. Discipline is a matter of wisdom.

My argument would be that some here say that they spank their children every Lord's Day at least once for not sitting still. This strongly implies that it is not working, because despite being repeated again and again, it has to be repeated again the next time. And, let's face it, if you were slapped every time you attended church, wouldn't you start to dread going?

My kids have never been spanked for failing to sit still, and my thirteen-year-old son and my ten-year-old daughter both sit quietly through the whole service and are very well behaved, even though my son is autistic (my three-year-old still likes to go to the cry-room). It's often a matter of maturity as much as anything else.

I Cor 13: Love is patient ...it is not easily provoked.
 
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