by Traci Smith
Chalice Press, Atlanta, Ga. 167 pages
REVIEWED BY KELLY BOUBEL SHRIVER
Last year I made a crucial mistake on Pentecost. While retelling the story to my then-2-year-old son, I started with, “Jesus was gone.” Enoch turned to me, tears welling up, “Jesus is always with me, so how can he be gone?” Yet again. Another moment of faith-parenting failure.
As a parent I often feel like I’m missing opportunities to share the rich stories and traditions of our faith with my children. I have ideas for fun activities, but between the busyness of our family schedule and my own tunnel vision, they never seem to happen. “Let’s read Luke 2 on Christmas Eve” and “pick out a Bible story before bedtime” are about the extent of what I’ve been able to manage.
And then I put on my other hat. As pastor of a small PC(USA) congregation, I’m not only concerned about the faith and formation of my biological children, I have an entire flock of sweet, tiny souls in my care. I want to engage them in ways that are creative, meaningful and developmentally appropriate. But, honestly, between the sermons and the hospital visits, unlocking the doors and changing the light bulbs, who has the time to craft a thoughtful children’s program? And then one day, the inimitable Traci Smith waltzed into my life with her beautiful book, “Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life” in tow.
Smith’s book is, in the most literal sense, a Godsend. It is chock full of imaginative, provocative and developmentally appropriate practices for families to engage in. Smith brings together practices of her own creation such as a blessing over a newly licensed driver, a colorful way to mark the Christian year, or adaptations of ancient practices such as the labyrinth and the Ignatian Examen. She presents them in a format parents can execute with easily obtainable props and very little prep. Her book is helpfully divided into chapters for daily, seasonal and occasional practices with additional practices for difficult moments in the life of a child. As a pastor, I was particularly taken with her “Family Ceremony to Mark a Divorce.” It’s a resource I hope many ministers will use to help families mark the end of one chapter of their life together and move into a new space with the promise that God is still present.
Seamless Faith presents parents, pastors and teachers with a beautiful and flexible set of practices. Smith is clearly open to the breadth of theologies within the Christian family, as well as local and contextual issues: all of her practices come with suggestions for how they can flex and adapt. It is a gracious book, a clear picture of how our faith can be seamlessly integrated into the seasons of our lives, growing and changing through the years.
After my Pentecost failure, I took a leaf from Smith’s book. My family adapted her kite activity with our family wind chime. The concrete connection to the sound of wind chimes and feel of the wind with the Spirit of God really clicked for our son. Now whenever he hears the bells, he reminds us, “God is like the wind. God is with us always!” Preach it, Enoch.
KELLY BOUBEL SHRIVER is pastor of Peoples Presbyterian Church in Milan, Michigan.