Passing on the Faith
My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith
The fifth thing in my short-list of ways and means is music. In religion, it is, always and finally, the music that instructs the spirit and rides with it through the years. If we need adult classes in the stories of the faith and the art of their telling, then just as surely we need training sessions with one another about the beloved songs that are our heritage, about intentional ways to bring them seamlessly into domestic life, about family song fests, certainly, but even more about tunes woven artlessly into the mundane business of our lives together.
And last in my half-dozen is something even more basic than storytelling and singing. That is, if there is anything that appeals to a child more than those, it is food. In fact, food manages to leave a fairly lasting impression on all of us, and this is especially true of food that is tied, on an on-going basis, to special events. We hear "Easter" and think "eggs," whether we want to or not. Of course, the other side of that associative process is that, because we all love Christmas candy, when we see a peppermint stick, we inevitably think "Christmas" whether it's Christmas or not. Our forebears in the faith used to use that double reinforcement of food and event more or less un-self-consciously; but it is an art, a grace, and a legitimate ploy that we have somehow lost or misplaced along the way.
The story of the Church herself, the grand narrative of the beloved community and the body of Christ on earth, is tied to more events than Christmas and Easter. It is tied to Shrove Tuesday with its pancakes for supper and the tale behind the pancakes. It is tied to a lovely cake in early January from the midst of which colored ribbons rise and trail along the sides, just waiting for the lucky child who will be the one to pull out the wondrous streamer with the tiny, tiny baby doll attached....just waiting for the happy remembrance of this day when Mary and Joseph took their baby son to the Temple and gave him there, before the priest, his Holy Name of Jesus. It is cinnamon buns on Good Friday, bearing their cross as they come to us bittersweet in their remembrance, etc.
These, then, are for me the sacred half-dozen from which all other efforts and intentions and programs must depend. Small and domestic though they may be, it is nonetheless by means of them that we begin to instill into the young the faith of our fathers and mothers. And of course, it is by the employment of them for our children that we teach and renew ourselves, even as we are teaching them.
Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly, the international journal of the book industry, is frequently quoted in print sources, electronic media, and innumerable blogs and web sites. Tickle is an authority on religion in America and a much sought after lecturer on the subject.