Today I’m honoured to host a stop on Traci Smith’s Seamless Faith blog tour. I’ll be hosting a virtual interview with Traci about her new book, Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life. You should definitely pick up a copy—it’s chock full of great ideas and practices that will help parents, grandparents, and ministry leaders to nurture faith in children—and in the process you’ll find your own faith nurtured as well. I’ll be picking up a couple copies of the book for my siblings who have infants so that they can make the most of its contents from their children’s first years of life. On today’s tour stop, Traci hosts me in the virtual tour bus for some Q&A time.
Dave: Let’s star at the beginning. How did this book come to be?
Traci: Like many things, I suppose, this book evolved over a long period of time. In my early years working with children and families in mainline churches I met a lot of families who wanted their family experience to be deeper and richer than it was. Racing from soccer games to football practice to homework to, yes, even church was a drag. They didn’t feel connected, they wanted more. Yet, when it came to faith, there was something daunting about it. Aside from prayers at the dinner table and bedtime, most families didn’t even know where to begin to try bring faith and spiritual practice into their homes. I imagined a book that could be practical and instructive and informative and jotted down some notes here and there. The impetus for actually writing down the ideas and getting them into book form was the birth of my two sons who were born very close together. As I rocked them and fed them in the middle of the night I sort of envisioned their future and realized that all of the ideas I had in my head weren’t just for other people’s children, they were for my own family as well.
Dave: The practices you share span the gamut of faith expressions and family life circumstances. How did you decide which ones to include?
Traci: I wanted there to be a variety of options so that there was something that would resonate with a lot of different family and personality types. I also knew that since the book would be organized into traditions, ceremonies, and spiritual practices, I would want there to be an even distribution between the three. I think of this book like a cookbook in many ways. Rarely does someone pick up a cookbook and try every single recipe, but really good cookbooks teach you some classics and then give you the tools you need to improvise.
Dave: What practices have been most helpful for your family?
Traci: Even though my children are still very small, we do a lot of the practices in the book: photo prayers, anointing, candle prayers for the sick and the evening blessing are some of our favorites. Some of the practices are more meaningful for my children whereas others take on greater meaning for me as a parent.
Dave: One thing I love about this book is that you are clear that this book is for families. The practices in it not only benefit children, but all who participate in them—teens, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, and all the other folks who make up the messy and complex things that we call families. What sort of response have you received from this approach, as opposed to a focus particularly on forming faith in the children within families?
Traci: The response so far has been incredibly positive and people are curious and excited about it. Children have so much to offer to families and faith communities, not just as “students” or “learners” but as teachers and fellow travelers. Just as we teach our children about God, so too do they teach us about God. I’ve had many, many people tell me that they want to buy the book to use some of the practices with grandchildren. Many of the practices could certainly be adapted for extended families.
Dave: That’s great to hear, Traci. Even though I don’t have any children of my own, I imagine how I can use these practices with nieces and nephews and children in my faith community. There are just so many great practices in the book and you make it so easy to imagine how to weave them within the fabric of daily life. Have you cooked up any more good practices since you wrote the book? Or is there one that ended up on the cutting room floor?
Traci: I have a running list on my computer called “Seamless Faith Two” of all of the ideas that have come to mind since I wrote the book. Many of the ideas on that list come from things that people have told me since they’ve read the book or heard me talk about it. It gives me great joy to think about Seamless Faith being a book that will inspire others to use their own creativity and imagination and come up with their own practices. One of the chapters in the book is Ceremonies for Difficult Times and it deals with ceremonies families can have for death, anxiety, or other tough times. These are the times when we need to come together as a family and it’s helpful to have something to anchor us. As I continue to think about these ideas I am realizing that Ceremonies for Difficult Times could be expanded into its own work. There is so much more that could be said, but there is a nice representation in Seamless Faith I think.
Dave: I appreciate the fact that you don’t use these practices as means for teaching a particular lesson or “point,” but that you see them as ways for allowing all who participate in them to experience God firsthand and come to their own assumptions, beliefs, and interpretations. Can you share more about why you chose to take this route?
Traci: First of all, thank you for noticing, because that’s absolutely one of the defining features of the book, in my opinion. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I assume that any family that is connected to a church will have opportunities for their children to get the kind of religious education they are seeking. In that same vein there are a myriad of excellent children’s Bibles, children’s storybooks, and other helps to achieve this important goal. My focus, however, is on helping families practice their faith together in ways that help them grow closer to God while also growing closer together as a family. In my experience, families don’t want to know more about God, they want to experience the living God and to talk about the difference that God makes in their daily life.
Dave: Thanks for taking the time to grace my website with your virtual presence. I hope that Seamless Faith becomes a favourite among families near and far!
Traci: Thank you so much, Dave, for letting me stop by your corner of the internet. I hope your readers will want to sign up for my monthly newsletter, buy the book, and say hello at Faith Forward!
Traci Smith will be offering a PechaKucha presentation and leading an interactive breakout session at Faith Forward, May 19-22 in Nashville. Join us to learn more from her experiments in family faith practices.