On Saturday, I visited three different grocery stores preparing to host Thanksgiving. My mom called in the middle of the second store. She too was grocery shopping, and her store had rearranged everything to highlight Thanksgiving foods. She couldn’t find ANYTHING. My mom had relied on the store’s predictable configuration, and its structural changes were hindering her normal routine. She called just to say how infuriated she was. We often forget how important structure is in our lives. It just takes one change to unravel us.
So too is ritual. In fact, ritual is just an old word for providing both structure and meaning to our lives. And it is critical in our children’s lives.
This Sunday (Nov 25th) our service begins with our annual bread communion ritual. Each person is invited to bring bread to the service. It can be a favorite bread (braided rye loaf, chappatis, rice cakes, cornbread, etc.). It can also be a bread that’s been passed down in your family, culture, or religious upbringing. In my family, it’s homemade biscuits for my Southern grandmother’s creamed chicken on biscuits recipes. (My cousins and I send photos to one another every time we have it for dinner, especially if Kaka made it for us.) I can also remember Jennie DeMizio bringing bread to the service she had learned to bake that her son, Sam, could eat without an allergic reaction. It reminds us that bread has meaning in our lives, and its significance varies greatly.
These rituals we create as a shared community can become rituals in the life of your family. On Sunday you’ll also hear about Andy and Kathy’s weekly ritual of honoring the sabbath. When their son was small, they wanted a weekly ritual for their family to mark the end of the work week. Andy was raised Jewish, and he suggested a shabbat ritual. They created their own song (you should hear it!) to mark their Fridays. Their son is now a high school senior, and his whole life has been composed of Friday singing and candle-lighting.
Rituals, like annual bread communion and weekly sabbath, provide structure to our days, weeks and years. They teach us about anticipation: “I can’t wait for that moment!” So often, they are accompanied by a story. A story of us. Who we are. What we are about.
Psychology professor Marshall Duke reminds us that children who know the stories of their families – whether biological, adopted or chosen – “tend to do better when they face challenges” because it develops a child’s sense of being a part of a larger family. He says, “children who have the most balance and self-confidence in their lives do so because of what he calls a strong ‘intergenerational self.’ They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.” At Beacon, that includes their congregational family.
So, here’s your tool for this week: When you choose your bread, don’t forget to tell your kids the story about the bread. If you don’t have a story yet, ask your child to pick their favorite bread and create a story. Why is this your favorite bread? Furthermore, when you arrive at Beacon, take some time at Social Hour with your child to ask others – children, parents, elders – the story of their breads.
When our children’s lives are filled with ritual – structure, anticipation and story – they learn how to create meaning in their lives. As they grow into adulthood, they will need rituals to mark their own lives. That’s why it’s important that our children experience these services. You are creating a foundation for the rest of their days. We may not know what seed is taking root, but I assure you it is. Have faith that it is!
Don’t forget to mark your calendar NOW for our annual Hanging of the Greens service where we “deck the halls” of our sanctuary with greens. There’s always a great story with a craft for children and adults alike. See the date and time below!
Dates to Remember:
Saturday, December 1, 4 pm: Hanging of the Greens Service followed by community meal
Sunday, December 9, 9:30 am/11 am: 5th Grade Right of Passage
Sunday, December 16: Junior Youth Group Snowflake BBQ
Sunday, January 13, 9:30 am/11 am: Family Breakfast
Sunday, January 20, 9:30 am/11 am: SpiritLab returns
Sunday, February 24th through Sunday, April 7th: Spring Series of Children’s Small Groups
Saturday, April 27th evening: Passover Seder
Sunday, May 5, 9:30 am/11 am: Coming of Age (9th grade) Sunday
Sunday, June 2nd: Flower Communion Sunday