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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

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About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to the share the good times and discuss the challenges of...  (More)

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Why we go to church

Uploaded: Nov 10, 2013
When people learn that we are actively engaged in a faith community, we get a wide range of reactions. Some folks wonder why we bother to go to church, and how we manage to make our kids go. Since we can't make our kids put their used cereal bowls in the dishwasher, it is unlikely we could force them to unwillingly attend a church service each week! Our family attends church because we actually enjoy going, and it enhances our lives in many ways.

Foremost, I sit quietly, undistracted by my electronic devices for a few minutes each week. Built into a worship service are all the techniques recommended for stress reduction and health improvement. There is time to meditate, reflect, and practice gratitude and forgiveness. I sing without my vocal talents being judged, listen to beautiful music, and participate in calming rituals.

A faith community offers endless and varied opportunities for service. Volunteering through my faith community is particularly joyful, perhaps because folks are very intentional and mindful of their interactions. My time is respected, my efforts appreciated, and no one comments on my utter lack of artistic ability when I do arts and crafts with the kids in Sunday school.

Our faith community is also multi-generational and diverse, and gives us a chance to get to know folks of all ages and life stages. We interact with people we would not necessarily meet in our daily school and work activities, which provides us a welcome and different perspective.

For my kids, youth group gives them another circle of friends, and a reprieve from the competitive environment of school and sports. They have adult mentors and age appropriate opportunities for exploring faith and service.

I was particularly grateful for our faith community in my saddest days after my father's passing last year. The grief felt heavy and unbearable. My dad died early in the morning on a Sunday. A few hours later our pastor arrived bearing the flowers from the worship service. It meant the world to me that the congregation was thinking of us. The many healing hugs and delicious home cooked meals we received over the next months were life affirming, as was the church service celebrating his life.

It is not a coincidence that our return to churchgoing coincided with our becoming parents twenty plus years ago. The overwhelming responsibility of raising children led us to seek out the support and reassurance of a faith community. The weeks I make time for church, I parent with more patience and live my life more fully.


Posted by Pete, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 10, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Interesting perspective on faith and family.

Posted by Debbie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 10, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Beautiful description of your church connection. I especially love the cereal bowl example.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 10, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Pete, for reading and commenting!

Thanks, Debbie! Yes, there is steady stream of cereal bowls appearing magically in the sink!

Posted by Margaret, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

You nicely touched on all the reasons our family attends church. The opportunity for quiet time and the ability to help others are not found elswhere.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:10 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Margaret,
Thanks for reading and commenting! We do find that church is an efficient way of meeting many needs, a type of " one stop" shopping.

Posted by Maria, a resident of University South,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:30 am

I admired people like you that are committed to a faith and our community.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:58 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Maria,
Thanks for reading and commenting! I'm grateful to live in a community and belong to a church with such a high level of engagement.

Posted by MemberMomOfThree, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:03 am

Great blog - we moved here from a place where we were never asked "do you attend church", but instead, "where do you attend church?". I feel blessed to have found a place to go to worship as a family. (Menlo Park Presbyterian) As a college student and young adult, I grew away from my faith, but I had still had it within, and it helped me though some very tough situations. I wish the same for my children. I feel sad for kids who are raised to believe in only themselves. Often, I think we tend to let ourselves down and when that happens, where to turn? Also the church is very involved in the community and as a family we have enjoyed giving back to those in our community who are less fortunate via outreach programs offered by our church and others. (Hotel Zink, day of Caring, etc. )

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:23 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear MemberMomOfThree,
Thank you for reading and commenting. Not sure why, but it seems fairly typical that college students and young adults are often less engaged in faith communities, even if they grew up in one. I wonder if it is because we feel more invincible at those ages, and tend to be more self-absorbed as well. One of my older kids is involved in a faith community in college, the other did not get involved, although they were both very grateful for the support and fun they had with youth group friends through high school. I take great comfort in knowing that my kids have their faith to take with them as they move out in the world. It makes it easier for me to let them go.

Posted by Cathy, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I would like to question a statement by MemberMomofThree who seems to think that kids who are raised without religion are raised to only believe in themselves. Neither myself nor my husband are religious and we are not raising our daughter in any religion. However, we are actively trying to raise a child who is part of and who cares for her community. I truly believe that raising her to have faith in community and humanity will serve her just as well as religion may for other kids. I personally love the idea of a church community but I cannot reconcile myself to the underlying belief system. However, this does not mean that I am lacking in morality, am self centered or am in any way a worse person than someone who does still believe. I believe in people, I believe in humanity, I just do not believe in religion.

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Our family is also very involved in our church community.

I think that for our kids in particular that this has been one of the most grounding things in their lives outside the family circle as they grow up.

Church activities seem to be the only place where there is no competition, no need to do homework, prepare, practice, or be compared against all the other kids. They turn up a couple of times a week and are accepted for who they are. If they are having a bad day, they can talk to the leaders without fear or being judged or reprimanded. They can talk about school pressures, home pressures, or any other pressures in their lives in complete confidence that it isn't going to be held against them in any way. In fact, in the high pressured world of Palo Alto schools, I think that it is the only thing that helps them survive and really wonder how kids without such an outlet manage.

Thanks for bringing this to the forefront and allowing us to discuss it.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Cathy,
Thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate your sharing how you and your husband are raising your daughter to have faith in humanity and care about her community, but without the religious context. You have clearly given your approach a lot of thought and your daughter is no doubt benefitting. There is also no doubt that many caring, moral, and self less individuals never go near a faith community.

I found it interesting that you "love the idea of a church community", but don't agree with the "underlying belief system". That's intriguing and I'd love to hear more about it.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Mother of 4,

Thank you for reading and commenting. Your comments on your kids' experience in their church community describes our kids' experience exactly. Thank you for expressing it all so articulately!

Posted by PR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 11:36 am

I love this blog, Sally! You are a genius and a gentlewoman--thank you for sharing these gems!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, PR, you are too kind!

Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 4:57 am

There is nothing better than having a supportive, diverse community where you can make a contribution!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:22 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, LJ, for reading and commenting. Connecting with others is so important.

Posted by Old School, a resident of Green Acres,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:05 am

Without regular indoctrination in childhood it is unlikely that a belief in an imaginary deity will ever take hold in a rational individual. Keep up the good work, we need more people with imaginary friends they can turn to in times of need.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Sally, thank you for such a thoughtful blog post.

In my observation, and admiration, of many churches, I've seen what wonderful glue that they can be in these fast-changing, striving times. One needn't even be a believer in deity or in doctrine, as such, to participate.

The community, opportunities for growth for adults and children, all of the reasons that you mentioned, those are fabulous reasons for participation. I like that there are options to help those in need as a larger group, stay abreast of social justice issues via one's church, as well as the classes, retreats, fundraisers and cultural events. Some even have skilled, onsite childcare so that parents may really pursue contemplation, spiritual fulfillment and growth.

One of my favorite things about churches is that they're also one of the last bastions of affordable room rentals, weddings, funerals, classes and cultural events for non-congregants. And finally - let's not forget the car washes, book sales, auctions, carnivals and jumble sales!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thank you, Hmmm, for reading and commenting. It seems you may be more than an observer and admirer of church communities but an active participant as well. You are well acquainted with all that they offer! Thank you for highlighting the opportunity to stay informed and involved in social justice issues. As you also mention, there can be a wide range of beliefs in a congregation.

Posted by Verily I say onto thee, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 13, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Since Sally is attending a church, one can conclude that she is worshipping a Christ- centered religion. She is therefore wasting her time- the basic concept behind all the Christ- centered religions is inherently flawed )and before anyone gets all hot and bothered, do not forget that the basis of all Christ- centered religions is that all other religions are false-- remember the line the only way to the father is through me-- referring to JC)

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:32 am

This thread seems to be about the community feel of belonging to a church community and the benefits that bring. Apart from two commenters who are mocking the spiritual and faith aspects, most seem to agree that the community aspect is very important.

I think it is worth noting that there is a growing movement of agreement with the community aspect of church like even amongst those with no faith. Mega atheist churches are springing up to bring a spirit of that aspect into the lives of those who attend. Web Link

My own point of view is that there is a need for spirituality in the lives of many people who think they are doing ok without religion, but they are confused about the difference between religion and God. I think they are searching for God, but that is just my own view. But it seems that there are people who want the community feel of church without wanting to admit God as a part of it. I expect that they are on the brink of soul searching for something more and that is probably something God can use in their lives.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:32 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Mother of 4,
Thanks for sharing that link, such an interesting article. The need for support and community in our lives is clearly universal!

Posted by Cathy, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Mother of 4 - no, no confusion - really, really not searching for God. No soul searching either. I just like being with thoughtful people, religious or non-religious, but traditional churches exclude the latter, people like me. Not even sure I would go to an atheist church, definitely not a 'mega' one, for the same reason.

Posted by Compliments only, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Nov 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Sally - I do know many an atheist, agnostic and humanist who attend church. I also know many who don't follow dogma, but follow Christian and Jewish beliefs w/kindness, love and no bigotry. I also know believers in God who attend church, as well as Gnostics who searched high and low for the right congregation - yes, there's a real variety. I also know people of earth-centered faith who attend progressive churches and also have their own celebrations. Lastly, what I still see here in the bustling Valley, are some folk religion practices that blend with various cultural practices that flavor their congregations uniquely. Some of these attendees don't really even like organized religion much, but they love having a thoughtful community to invest their time, talents and energy in.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thank you, Hmmm, for sharing your knowledge of all the various ways folks explore spirituality and find a supportive community. The faith communities you describe also sound very inclusive and willing to embrace individuals with a wide range of beliefs.

Posted by Atheist, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 15, 2013 at 7:36 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

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