The church we belong to has an interesting element in its design; something I have not seen since my childhood. It’s called a “cry room”. A cry room is a small, enclosed, soundproofed space adjacent to a more public space – like a church sanctuary – with a few chairs (or pews) behind a large pane of glass. Parents can take their unhappy infants into the cry room and still see and hear the church service without disturbing the congregation. Parents can enter from the sanctuary or they can enter from the church foyer; in fact, you hardly notice them.
Our pastor enjoys telling new visitors the cry room is actually for adults as well – the ones who are upset with what he has to say in his sermons.
I was first introduced to cry rooms at a movie theater of my youth. It was a small seaside venue with only one or two screens. The cry room was situated at the back of the theater, soundproofed and elevated. They put a few theater-style seats behind the glass, with speakers so you could still hear the movie. As a teenager, my friends and I thought the cry room was the cool place to watch the movie from, as if we had our very own private theater. In hindsight, it would have been a great place for a first date.
Cry rooms are clearly a throwback to times gone by, like those big velvet curtains that would pull aside before the movie began. They bring back memories of the simpler, more refined eras that I sometimes yearn for. They make me wistful. I did a little research and learned that cry rooms were always included in early theater design. The nicer ones included electric bottle warmers, complimentary formula, and often a nurse on duty. Different times, no?
A hotel in Japan takes a different spin on the concept of a cry room. They’ve set aside several rooms specifically for women to de-stress from the apparently demanding lifestyle of the Japanese culture. Check into a cry room, select from one of several Hollywood tear-jerker DVD’s, and let the tears flow and the stress melt away. They supply you with a healthy stock of tissues and a warm eye mask, so you can emerge a few hours later with no evidence on your face. Would you pay $85 for that?
The recent trend in church design is to remove the cry room from the sanctuary. I think that’s a shame, as infants are showing up in the pews in greater numbers these days. Speaking of infants, a few months ago I watched a woman video the pastor’s sermon on her iPhone with no regard for the people sitting around her. She was in the pew directly in front of me. Try concentrating on the message as you look past an iPhone held up high. Forget the wailing babies; I’ve found an even better reason to bring back cry rooms.