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What is… Family Rituals?

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Most families have routines of a sort that shape their days and weeks—maybe who does what chores or what kind of madness must ensue to get out of the house in the morning. We could also call these “rituals.” Often there is not much thought in these routines, so what happens when families create intentional rituals to connect to each other and to Jesus? We decided to answer that question through a program called Family Rituals.

In the past, Woodland Hills volunteer Bill Doherty has used his experience as Co-founder of Braver Angels to help Woodland engage with issues like political polarization. Now, Bill is using his experience as a therapist and psychologist to partner with our Children’s Team to help families create intentional rituals for themselves.

The family rituals pilot program started with initial participants working together over an eight month period to develop and refine rituals to fit Woodland families. Caitlyn, a local attendee, explained the process: “Creating a new ritual involves careful, thoughtful planning. We work together with others in the group to understand what key elements a ritual should include and then decide how to accomplish the vision of the ritual. Working together in the rituals group, I have formed close community—knowing that we’re doing the same rituals has created a closer connection with the church as a whole!”

So far, the pilot families have developed rituals for family meals and for bedtime. Mary Van Sickle, our family and connecting pastor, said, “With so many things vying for people’s attention, an intentional practice during meal time or bedtime is helpful to connect people to each other and Jesus.”

Caitlyn, whose children are five and seven, said, “Creating and following the rituals has unified my marriage and created stronger bonds within our family. The rituals have enriched our conversations with our daughters and have helped us understand as young parents what we need to focus on at this stage of life.”

Pamela, a podrishioner from Bolivia, practices the mealtime ritual with her eight and ten year old. “During lunch/dinner we have a family time of lighting a candle, and saying an initial prayer. While we eat, we share the joys and sorrow of our day and where we felt God’s presence, and then we pray over what was shared. I was amazed at how my kids were excited about all of us sharing things from our day to day life. As an adult, sometimes I was tired or mad and not willing to start the ritual, but they were the ones who initiated it. It gave us all a sense of connection as a family unit. By sharing your joys and sorrows you can understand a little better how children react or experience their own worlds and we all sense God in our midst as we discover his presence in daily activities.”

Mary said, “We have amazing people at Woodland Hills and it is fun to see how they are bringing Jesus into their homes with young families. Each year we will offer a new ritual, and we hope more parents will join who are interested in adapting rituals in their homes.”

Materials for the family meal ritual are now available! If you would like information about those, or about the June rollout, contact Karyn at kcarlson@whchurch.org. You can also learn more here.

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