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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Faith stories

During a recent visit with my mother, she gave me a first communion photograph of her older brother, Glen, who had died in a car accident at age 16.

As we talked about the photo, taken in the depths of the Depression, my mother was particularly touched by the obvious care and expense her Roman Catholic parents had taken to mark this religious sacrament.

Although money was tight in 1936, Glen was sporting new clothes, including shiny leather shoes. His portrait had been taken at a city photo studio — both enormously pricey undertakings for my Iowa farmer grandparents.

That got us talking about the centrality of religion in the lives of my grandparents, who have been dead now for many years. Photos taken on religious occasions offer a good way to spark stories of family faith journeys, but you can use other strategies as well.

Hearing those stories from older family members, says Harold Thorsheim, is bound to strengthen family ties and improve intergenerational understanding. Including the middle-agers and the youth may help the elders open up. Try these suggestions:

Build faith stories into other activities:
At any family reunion, holiday get-together or other gathering, ask family members to tell aloud about some event or time that was especially important to their faith.

Invite anonymous faith stories:
In advance of a gathering, ask family members to write on index cards about a time when they felt their faith buoyed up, found joy or felt discouraged. Let them know that although their writings will be anonymous, they will be shared with the family so they should write something they're comfortable having others read. Have younger family members ask older ones if any of the stories bring other episodes to mind. Pass out a second index card during the gathering so family members can write their reactions to the tales.

Pass on faith stories:
Type up the stories from cards and make copies for everyone.


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December issue

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