Family reunions, a time to pass on beliefs

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from a parishioner planning a family reunion in Wilmington, N.C. Among the … Continued

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from a parishioner planning a family reunion in Wilmington, N.C. Among the varied activities planned for the holiday weekend, one tradition was key: taking time to honor God, their bridge over both the scenic and troubled waters.

“Now — you say after me, in my mother’s house there is still God.” These are the words required to live in the House of Younger, the family at the center of Lorraine Hansberry’s masterful “A Raisin in the Sun.” As long as Mama Younger provides room and board, her children’s belief in God is non-negotiable and disrespect for God will not be tolerated.

She may not be able to control her daughter’s thoughts and actions on the other side of her door and farther down the road of life, but she is determined to do what she can while she can. Her strong determination is part of her even stronger faith. She is duty-bound to instill in her children a belief in God because the big book lying on the coffee table says that she must train her children in the way that they “should go.”

How does one transfer to a successor generation, those whom the acclaimed novelist Colson Whitehead calls “our replacements,” a belief in God, an understanding of one’s story and a familiarity with the songs and hymns that provided the soundtrack along the journey? You must tell them! I must tell them! We must tell them! Tell them not only about the joy and triumphs but the pains and tears, as well.

It is what Moses instructed the children of Israel to do in his valedictory as he was preparing to graduate from the school of time to the University of Eternity.

Tell them! As an African proverb states, when an elderly person dies, we lose a library. The family reunion — the annual gathering of elders and children alike — allows the transfer of the books in our living libraries, which necessarily includes How We Got Over.

Just as my parishioner thought it important to show her family’s “replacements” that in their family “there still is God,” so, too, will numerous other families converging on cities throughout the country for their reunions.

Thomas L. Bowen is the Minister of Fellowship and Outreach at Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington. He writes at

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  • slowe111

    I also attend a family reunion every year. You advocate the elders telling the “replacements” about the traditions of the family – a belief in God. What about those tradtions like racism, white supremacy, and homophobia? Should the elders also continue and “tell the story” of these beliefs as well? THe danger of continuing traditional beliefs and storoies is that sometimes they do not deserve and should not be continued but left to die as mistakes of the past. God belief, dependency on supernatural agents, etc. may be one of these and should be carefully considered before assuming it is worthy of continuation.

  • JBfromDC

    Thank you, Thomas, for expressing so well what is on my heart all day everyday for people of faith in Jehovah! I am so blessed to come from families that form a great cloud of witnesses at their reunions!