In today’s world where families face many uncertainties, what better resource is there for understanding and dealing with challenges than the stories of other families who have had similar experiences? Families with a strong faith connection and spiritual dimension seem to weather the storms of life in a particularly positive way.

And what about the experiences at the opposite end of the spectrum—times of joy and happiness?  Just as families of faith weather storms more positively, they also meet times of joy and happiness with deeper rejoicing together.

In Sacred Stories of Ordinary Families, author Diana Garland interviewed 110 “ordinary” families and used their stories to illustrate how faith shapes the way families live. The stories are representative of all kinds of families—traditional nuclear, single-parent, remarried, blended, single adults and older adults who are both married and widowed. The stories of these ordinary families illustrate how the Bible and the overarching Christian story become the backdrop for living out faith in ordinary, daily lives.

Garland encourages families within congregations to connect their own experiences with the sacred and to share these stories within the community of faith, thereby offering strength for the journey to other families. “My hope is that this book will encourage congregations to become communities for the telling of family stories—stories of family struggles and resilience and redemption, stories of family faith,” she says.

The book offers practical suggestions of how congregations can nurture the faith life of families. Giving families the tools for living their faith in daily life and developing their own “sacred” stories strengthens not only their own lives, but also the lives of others to whom they tell their story.

Rather than adding new programs, this type of nurture means looking at what the congregation is already doing from the perspective of the impact it has on individuals and families.

Garland suggests that churches:

–Look for family relationships beyond the “of-course” family.

–Look for the strength of all families.

–Encourage families to develop their own faith practices.

–Provide ways for families to serve and learn together at church.

–Provide ways for families to minister together.

–Use church conflicts as opportunities.

–Provide ways that families can eat together or simply be together.

–Be a place that evokes and listens to family stories of faith.

As this book relates the stories of ordinary families, it will leave the reader with a stronger sense of how he or she is also living the faith in daily life, and how that faith can be tapped at necessary and opportune times for the living of these days, in both ordinary and extraordinary situations.

Barbara Massey is minister to children at River Road Church, Baptist, Richmond, Va.

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