The Rev. Traci Smith shares recommendations for simple family-oriented spiritual practices for Lent and beyond
by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Traci Smith shared her insight and recommendations for simple Holy Week practices that can be done in-home to a coast-to-coast Presbyterian and multi-denominational audience recently via Zoom.
The webinar, which targeted congregations, educators, pastors, parents, youth workers and volunteers — among others who care about faith at home — was presented in partnership with the Office of Christian Formation (OCF). It was based on Smith’s book, “Faithful Families for Lent, Easter & Resurrection.”
During the webinar, OCF also introduced several new short Practicing Faith at Home videos that address five Sabbath practices for Lent and any other time. The five practices feature Smith and are included in OCF’s online Faith Practices Toolkit:
Smith is the author of several Faithful Families books, a mother and a PC(USA)-ordained pastor. Her passion is trying to help busy families create a safe space at home through faith-based practices.
“We learn our faith through practice and when we teach it to our children we should teach it through practice,” said Smith. “Not just teaching about the Bible but teaching through practice as much as we can through repetition.”
When practicing faith practice at home, Smith emphasized keeping things simple and focused. As a content creator of faith-based material she feels a special responsibility to remind the audience that it’s not necessary to do everything. Referencing her book, which has 80-100 ideas contained within it, Smith says to focus on just a few that speak to you, your family or your congregation.
“You would probably do well to pick three or four that you wanted to do with your congregation to teach them to do three or four with their families,” said Smith. “I think of my books as recipe books. You’re not meant to do everything. You’re meant to use it as a guide and pick something that you can do well and dig into deeply. The more you focus, the more richness families will get out of the ideas. When you study habits it’s the repetition that is meaningful, not the quantity.”
Smith suggested three areas of focus for Lent this year, corresponding to individual chapters in the book. They are:
- Faith @ Home
- Three Pillars of Lent (prayer, almsgiving and fasting)
Smith points out that the symbols we traditionally use for Lent detail the violent execution of Jesus. But the symbols in the book are varied, devoted to life, death and his resurrection. She suggests one approach to celebrating the three pillars of Lent is to focus on one pillar for two weeks each. But personally Smith prefers an alternative approach: focusing on one pillar over the course of an entire year.
“Decide to focus on the three pillars over the next three years, and do one per year for the next three,” said Smith. “I love that approach because it’s really drilling down and going narrow and deep. And wouldn’t it be great to say you know what it is you’re going to do for the next three years of Lent with your family.”
The Faith Practices project was initiated by the Office of Christian Formation, which assembled practitioners, educators, professors, and pastors to talk about building a communal faith through practices, according to Stephanie Fritz, OCF coordinator.
‘Faith is learned when it is woven seamlessly into the fabric of daily life’ — ‘Faithful Families for Lent, Easter & Resurrection’
“We wanted to simplify and talk about five practices that we think support a communal faith, so we came up with prayer, hospitality, storytelling, retreat and service,” said Fritz. “There’s a Faith Practices Toolkit available for each of the five practices.”
To enhance the Faith Practices project, OCF asked Smith to present a short video on each of the practices, including a video focusing on Holy Week, for a total of six. The five practices videos can be utilized during Lent but are evergreen and can be used at any time throughout the year. The videos are meant to be shared directly with your households. You can view all six videos here.
“I love this focus on practice we have as a denomination,” said Smith. “It’s perfect and I hope everyone digs into the resources that are on OCF’s website. Pick what resonates with you and use it with your congregation.”
Smith suggested showing the videos as part of worship or post-worship if possible. But the videos are open and free to use as congregations or individuals see fit.
You can stay connected to Smith’s work by visiting tracismith.com and signing up for weekly emails. For information on how to order five- or 10-book bundles of Smith’s “Faithful Families for Lent, Easter & Resurrection” at a discount, click here.
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