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What My Church Taught Me About Family

Updated on August 23, 2017
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MsDora, former teacher and Christian counselor presents practical Scriptural principles for joyful everyday living.

My childhood household consisted of my maternal grandmother, my aunt, my mother and me. These women fed me their memories of two male relatives who died too soon for me to remember—my father and my uncle. My childish conclusion that female relatives lived and male relatives died was only the beginning of my faulty concept of family.

Thanks to my biological and church families for teaching me among other things, that family extends beyond household members!

During my teen years in the 1960s, church folk visited as often as biological relatives. Their lives were interwoven to the extent that parents shared letters from their children who lived abroad. This sense of community gave “minding your sister’s business” a positive meaning. In this close family setting, my church impacted my life with some essential family values, including those listed below.

Childhood Church in a New Location

Source

Connectedness

Seventh-day Adventists are weird by comparison with other Christian groups. They worship on the seventh day (like the fourth of the Ten Commandments says) instead of the first. Their days begin at sunset and end at the following sunset. They teach from the Bible (Leviticus 11) that some foods are, and some are not clean and healthy. Our strangeness, however, is an asset to our sense of connectedness.

As children at school, we stood beside those who were teased about their faith. Our parents helped each other find jobs which did not require work on Saturdays. At church, we identified with the struggles associated with being Adventists in otherwise non-Adventist families. Our commitment to our beliefs helped forged a love and connectedness which sunk deep and stretched wide to other church-family members we would meet in other places at other times. We learned that even among nations at war, family united in faith can find and love each other.

Hospitality

Church was an all-day affair until sunset, and many members who lived more than a mile away did not go home for lunch. The main reason was that if they lived with family members who did not observe the Sabbath, they preferred to spend the Sabbath hours with people who did. So, Sabbath lunch was usually a big family gathering, with more emphasis on fellowship than on food.

The Queen of Hospitality in our congregation was nicknamed Fanny Fast. She was fast about discovering the names and needs of church visitors, fast in finding solutions, fast in becoming the solution when there were no other options. One Sabbath, a large family visited, and my grandmother landed the honor of inviting them for lunch. On our way home, Sister Fanny who had left before us could be seen in the distance carrying a basket resembling Little Red Riding Hood’s.

When we reached her, she spoke to my grandmother. “Take this,” she said as she handed over the basket. “You couldn’t be prepared to handle so many people today, so I brought you some bread to help out.”

Photo by Daniel Sone
Photo by Daniel Sone | Source

That demonstration of hospitality has been eternally wedged in my memory. Hospitality is not limited to one’s sphere of obligation; it offers kindness wherever and however it can be shared, especially in the interest of family.

Forgiveness

How disappointed I was to realize that there were sinners in my church. My youthful innocent mind thought that everyone lived up to the principles that were being taught. So whenever the elder stood to “disfellowship” a fallen member, I was bewildered that the power of the gospel did not keep him or her from yielding to temptation.

There was no discussion, and consequently no outlet for my frustration, but I learned to maintain respect toward people who transgressed. I also learned that family ties are not broken by misconduct. The fallen were re-instated when they repented and sought restoration; and forgiveness and grace were applied.

As I matured, the more understanding and compassionate I became toward others and toward myself.

Faith and Prayer

The weekly prayer meeting was never as well attended as the Sabbath service, but the prayers and testimonies of the faithful few were fervent and empowering. The saints prayed for the academic success of students, for everyone's safe travel, for salvation of delinquent children, for any and all desires of our church family members; and the best part was the boost of personal faith that came with the report of answered prayers.

The impact of praying together; praying for each other; and praying about everything – yes, everything—was not lost on the youth. Still we found entertainment in the midst of these serious routines. My buddy and I looked at each other and lip synced the lines that became standard in a mother’s testimony about gratitude for “my six wonderful children.” We joined in confession with another member about “my mistakes and shortcomings.” We even knew that the elder’s closing prayer would begin with: “Heav-en-ly Father, ere we sever one from another, we must pause (big pause) to thank You . . .”

Through it all, we were learning and growing.

To this day, I think that something is missing in the prayer meeting if there is so much preaching that there is not enough time for praying; if specific requests are not made for specific people; if nothing attests to the sense of family unity. Nothing builds families like togetherness in prayer.

The Circle of Life

The Legacy Continues

Community March Against Crime (2015).  Photo by Sylvester Dore
Community March Against Crime (2015). Photo by Sylvester Dore | Source

Not everyone enjoys the privilege of returning to his or her starting point. Having served in the same church organization on three Caribbean islands, in one South American country and three North American States, I feel blessed to return to my original church on my native island. Throughout my journey so far, everything I have learned about church and biological families, service to my fellowmen, and maturity in my personal faith has been mounted on the foundation built in my childhood church.

Have I said that my faith has always been strong? That church family everywhere has been as accepting and nurturing as expected? No. There have been frustrations and disappointments.

I declare however, that the best pilgrimage for weary souls is the return journey home. The older family members are no longer here to embrace me, but the younger ones stand where I once stood assuring me that the legacy of family love in my childhood church continues.

What has been your experience of church life?

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© 2017 Dora Isaac Weithers

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    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Marlene, what a sweet ending to your comment here! Thank you very much. I think there might also be some family love on HubPages!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

      I can relate very well with your article. The members of my biological family are spread out all over the U.S. So, my church family is a life line. I like the phrase, "minding your sister's business." It does add a new meaning to what it means to take care of each other.

      By the way, MsDora, congratulations on winning the, "Most Trusted Hubber" award. It is a fitting award for someone as loved and honored as you.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Lawrence, thanks for the positive comment. Happy to hear that you have not given up on the fellowship. The rest is important too, since God in His wisdom designed for us after six days of work. We do need to refresh and renew in worship. Have a great week!

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      Lawrence Hebb 4 weeks ago

      MsDora

      Really enjoyed this. We used to attend church regularly, but my job has me working six days a week, and I know most Christians don't agree with me, but his command for a Sabbath rest means just that, a rest.

      Going to church was actually becoming more of a chore (duties and tiaras etc) that we just had to stop!

      That doesn't mean we don't 'fellowship' we do, but it's over coffee during the week, or in a morning tea break (here in NZ we call it a 'smoko break')

      This was a great read though.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks DDE. I love my church family and think highly of them.

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      DDE 5 weeks ago

      A warm and most appreciated hub!

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks Bill, for your affirmation of what prayer meeting should be like. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of" (Milton). Why cut ourselves short?

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      William Kovacic 2 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi, Dora. I couldn't help but think how typical your description of a prayer meeting is. I've been to so many where there is singing, preaching, testimonies, and if there's any time left maybe a short prayer time of 5 minutes or less. Something's wrong. It's not a prayer meeting at all. Another job well done! Thank you, Dora.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Lori, thanks for your input. I appreciate my childhood church now more than I did back then. Having been around other groups, I realize the spiritual, social and moral benefits that I received from my small family-like congregation. I pray the same for the younger ones here and everywhere. I can relate to the disappointment of people who come to pray and were robbed of the opportunity. We all have to pray more at home.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Oops, sorry for my typo, maybe it did not show up? It must be age but that happens to me lately to spell words I am not even thinking. Hope it means nothing too serious. I will try to always look over it better from now on!

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      Lori Colbo 2 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      What a lovely, homey comforting piece. Your descriptions of your church and family life are heartening and I wish there was more of it today.

      I thought your remarks about the prayer meetings you had as a child, and what too many are like now were quite telling. It's sad that prayer meetings are so poorly attended. I remember in 2002 a church in our area advertised a prayer service in commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy. They preached, they had a film, and some speakers, and we had a brief corporate prayer. So many were disappointed because they had the heart to pray.

      I love your family and church's example of community, love, and unity so heart warming. It's to often the exception these days rather than the rule.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Alicia, thanks for reading. Happy to share interesting information. Seventh-day Adventists are a worldwide church, even though some people haven't heard of us.

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      Linda Crampton 2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It was lovely to read about your church and about your experiences, Dora. It was also educational for me. I don't know much about Seventh-day Adventist customs.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Jackie, thanks for your input. Knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord is of utmost importance.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Was discussing your beliefs just a few days ago Dora (not knowing then they were yours of course) and saying I could see believing that way although it is not my way. Makes a lost of sense. As long as we truly know Jesus and have Him as our savior I think we have all we need to go with Him when He returns for us.

      Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you, Demas. Your encouragement means much to me.

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      Demas W Jasper 2 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Sharing, and fully appreciative of the Adventist values you describe so well. Not only are they Adventist values, but Christian values.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Louise, great that you belong to a church that you like! We all need families in which we feel comfortable to love and be loved.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, I thank God for my blessed childhood. I'm sure that you also have much to b grateful for.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Flourish, bad church experiences are more common than we may think. Sad that in the place where we should find inspiration for living, some are turned off by the negative habits of others. We can all still hold on to faith, to prayer --and to God. Hope we never give up on Him!

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Eric. You still share the love you received in your church family. We (you and I) are blessed!

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Sally, whether you call it a club or a family, it creates a sense of belonging which is healthy for the belong-er. Sorry you missed out; there is a church community for everyone. Thanks for sharing.

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      Louise Powles 2 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That was so lovely to read Dora. I definitely believe that my Church family is my extended family. I've been going to Church (on and off) all my life. I do love my Church family and my Church. Bless you. x

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      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for sharing these examples of love with us, Dora. It is obvious that you learned your lessons well.

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      FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

      How lovely that you had such a warm and nurturing experience in a close knit church. It was a pleasure to read, even I though I am not a churchgoer myself. As a child my exhausted mother arranged for the church bus to come pick up my brother, sister, and I so she could get some rest for a few hours. They preached fiesty sermons of hellfire and damnation that gave my siblings nightmares and made my sister cry and beg not to go back. My mother had no understanding as to why this was occurring. I sat in the pews and daydreamed, unaffected. I've always been a difficult one to persuade. As a teen I tried church on my own accord but there was a lot of backbiting, gossip, and hypocrisy. Growing up it would've been nice to have been part of a community like you described.

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      Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      What wonderful thoughts. Growing up bordering Utah, everyone was just fine using the term Mormons. And for those that lapsed we called them Jack Mormons.

      Along with the Catholics I never ever felt less than love among them. I grew up appreciating their church families.

      You are very blessed to have such a great family.

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      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 months ago from Norfolk

      So much warmth and love are written down in this hub. It almost makes me long to be part of the 'club'. We were forced to attend church though we all at some time or other did it, always voluntarily and were as a result never able to feel a part of the church community. Somehow it seems to me that religion is very much a family thing to do and should always be. I think you are very lucky.