More and more families are identifying as “non-religious”, “no religion, but spiritual” or a variety of titles on the agnostic spectrum.” The question of navigating this balance of open spirituality in your home can be difficult no matter how you identify or what kind of religious (or non-religious) background you grew up in. How do you create your own holidays? Do you still have specific places and times to worship? How do you explain spiritual beliefs to your youngest children? Here’s a start list of how my family creates our openly spiritual home in Northwest Philly:
1) Leave them wanting more. Sometimes the rules and regulations of following an organized religion can become overwhelming. If you’re choosing an openly spiritual home, you have the option to bring in as little or as much ritual and tradition as you please. “It leaves them always wanting more, and maybe that’s a good thing,” says Maureen Riley, who was raised Catholic but raised all four of her children with a variety of spiritual and religious practice (disclosure: this writer’s mom). “It gives them a very invigorating interest in something that maybe their churchgoing friends take for granted.”
2) Find some great books. Sarah Kolker, local Germantown artist and mom of Purple Ray, uses books like “Meditating with Children: The Art of Concentration and Centering” by Deborah Rozman and “Welcoming Spirit Home” by Sobonfu Some to help her frame the foundation of spirit and the divine in her life with her daughter. There are a wonderful array of new memoirs out in the past few years of people navigating the life of a mixed religious household or identity that are also helpful.
3) Create your own rituals. Rituals are important in setting up an intentional family. When they become too strict, they can be limiting, and when they’re not even in existence, connection can dissolve. But with a good balance, rituals can bring families together and help get everyone through times of struggle and prosperity. Think of your everyday activities and see how ritual can be placed into them, like eating, bedtime routines, etc.. Kolker and her daughter pray for places and people involved with bringing food to their table, and do some kind of minimal yoga and meditation practice everyday.
4) Make your home a study in comparative religions. More advice from Mom Riley: “Just as school is secondary to your own home academic teachings, so should organized religion or church be secondary to your own spiritual teachings.” If your family does have a place of worship you attend, add your own variety of religious teachings in your own home. Read from a diverse selection of spiritual texts, watch movies about different faiths, or visit different places of worship. Read about children from around the world and their spiritual practices.
5) Find a way to speak directly to Source. Whether you call it God, or Source, or the divine, there are multiple ways to reach out and involve your children in communication with a higher power. Germantown mom, birthworker, and hairstylist Zendra Shareef sees the simple act of families praying as a way to to connect directly with Source and each other. “We pray together. It’s not really a formal structure.”
“Your gift to them is helping them recognize a sense of the holy and divine wherever that may lead in their lives,” says Maureen Riley (who also was a part of the Medical Mission Sisters in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia many years ago). “You may not agree with where it takes them, but as long as that helps them tap into inner peace, you’ve done your job.”
There are many places of worship in the Northwest Philly area that welcome visitors and honor open views on spirituality- the Unitarian Society of Germantown and the First United Methodist Church of Germantown come to mind. Do you have another to add to the list? What does your family do to bring spirit into your everyday lives? How do you raise your children in a multi-religious background?
This is the first in our series on spirituality in the Northwest. We invite submissions from readers, sharing how they raise spiritual children, with our without organized religion. Please email us if you’d like to submit a piece for the series.