Monday, June 27, 2011

Bloodless Family

"It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons." ~ Johann Schiller

"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories." ~ George Eliot

Family: a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation: fellowship

This is definition number three out of eight listed by Merriam-Webster dictionary when you look up the word family. It does not say anything about blood ties or living under the same roof. To me, it is a simple and yet powerful definition of the word family; one that has resonated with me not only through this past weekend, but gradually over the past several years or so.

That which constitutes a family unit has drastically changed since I was growing up. Luckily for society, a family no longer has to be comprised of a husband, wife, and 2.2 biological kids; accompanied by Fido or Kitty. Rather, we have additional constellations of all sorts: two women, two women with children, two men, two men with children, widows with children, women with pets, men with pets, and on and on. We have step-parents, step-children, boyfriends with children, girlfriends with children, as well as multiple generations; some even being crazy enough to all live under the same roof!

I love though that Merriam-Webster has put into words another definition of family that is not stereotypical and that is: people united by a certain conviction or common affiliation. I have that. See, because in addition to a loving biological family as well as a loving "inherited" one, I also get to have a church family. I have been a member of the Belchertown United Church of Christ in Massachusetts for several years now, a place by all definition of the word is like home to me. Sure, we are not bound by the ties of blood but we are bound by those things which I think is just as powerful and that is our God, our hearts, and our fellowship.

That was strikingly apparent to me this past weekend. I made a joke to a friend of mine from church when I saw her last evening about how I see her more lately than my own family; meaning of course my biological family. It had been a weekend filled with activity for three days with various members of my church family. We spent time together at the annual Relay for Life, Sunday morning church service, and choir rehearsal. However for me, the highlight was that some of us were blessed enough to witness two of our own get married. That is what really got me thinking about this whole church family thing on an entirely different level.

Meghan and Scott have been members in our church for a while now and since we have become friends gradually during that time, I knew their wedding day would be special. However, I was not quite prepared for the emotion I felt as Meghan stood at the head of the church aisle with those two large church doors opened. We have watched them grow in their relationship with each other and with us during part of their courtship and engagement, so one could not help but have those feelings of pride and love as they took that gigantic step towards starting a new life together. There is something to be said for watching those from your own family take on something as powerful and significant as the leap of faith that is required to enter into a marriage.

That's how it is there. As a church family, we get to be part of those silent unspeakable moments that George Eliot so eloquently describes above. Sometimes those moments are not always as joyful as the wedding was. In addition to this celebration, we have also had several funerals recently within the past six months. We have had some of our family members fall ill or ones who have sent their relatives to war in the Middle East. We have worked together to assist tornado victims in surrounding communities. Both joyful and sad, these unspeakable moments connect us with God and with each other.

Like all families, this one is not perfect. We disagree when we don't see eye to eye with one another. That is what happens when you get one hundred plus people in the same family! Like all families, feelings can get hurt because people are just that, people. They have stress and personal issues.  We each have different experiences with one another and the nature of our individual bond with each person in the family is different. When you think about it, that doesn't make it different than any other family. I am definitely closer to some members of my biological family compared to others. In my church family, we have probably one of the most diverse groups of people I have ever seen in a church and each of those people is unique with their own special talents, abilities, emotional baggage and imperfections. That has been one of the greatest learning experiences for me with this family: learning to be connected and stay connected despite people's flaws as well as learning to resolve differences and occasionally conflict.

As I get older and maybe just perhaps a little more mature, I have learned that at the end of the day, it is not about the size of your home, how much overtime money you earned that year, or where you vacationed to that summer. Life is about people and relationships. It's about connecting with others and forming loving relationships that sustain and nourish you. It's about cultivating family, regardless of what your definition for that may be. I know for me personally, that no matter where my life's journey takes me, I will always have a family at the Belchertown United Church of Christ that I am connected with both in my heart and through God. And once again, for that, I am quite grateful.

Photos: Courtesy of Chuck Myers


  1. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. As one of your sisters in the big BUCC family, I know I felt closer to you when we sang "Paradise By the Dashboard Lights" together to our partners. It was deep. Real deep. Oh, who am I was real fun, too!

  3. I liked you explanation of the family. Since I left my family back in Iowa, I have found a new family also. It is good. Thanks for posting. It has a lot of meaning.

  4. Loved this post. So true and so well expressed.