Across the world there is a wide variety of.families. In this country family life is changing and becoming more complex. Children growing up may live in families with lone Parents or with step-families because of the increase in divorce and remarriage. More and more young people are choosing to cohabit before getting married and nearly one in three births now take place outside marriage, many to couples living together.
More people live by themselves, yet the three or four generation family is also quite common.
Many more marriages are taking place across national, ethnic and religious divides. And as increasing numbers of women enter the workplace, our traditional ideas about the roles of men and women, of work and home life, are being chal lenged. • Family life is not always a happy experience. Relationships break down, Poverty, unemployment, overwork and stress make life difficult for many people. Families can be violent places. Children are sometimes abused by the very people who should be protecting them. Single people and others not in conventional families can feel left out by constant talk about "the family". Many people, especially elderly people, feel isolated.
FAmiLtas ARE C.ALIED TO: *meet our basic human needs for food, home and protection; * help us grow and mature; *teach us how to get on with other people and to welcome outsiders *give us a sense of belonging *help us feel accepted as we are *show us that people who are different can hold together in love.
But families need thinking about. What are the best things about your family life? And the worst?
What are your experiences of family life? Do you need to say "Thank you" or "I'm sorry" or "I forgive you" to anyone? How will you do it?
Are other peoples experiences of family life different to yours? How does this affect your thinking about family life?
Is your church like a family? How does it differ? What do you under
stand by family values.
Do your values and those of your church influence the community?
Look at the make-up of your local church.
Sometimes only part of the family attend; older children may have decided Church is not for them; for various reasons one partner may come alone; grandparents may bring grandchildren while parents stay at home.
There may be families whose members are committed to churches of different denomina
Many people are not living in traditional families, for example single people living alone or in partnerships, some of whom will be bringing up children.
* How can the Church support people in different family situations? Is it easy for everyone to be part of your Church?
*How are the gifts of different agegroups used in your Church? And how are their needs met? *Many people come to church for baptisms, weddings and funerals, and may turn to the church at times of crisis. Churches also have direct contact with families through parents and toddler groups, community activities and so on. How does your church respond to the important moments in family life?
*Find out what your local area has to offer families, and also the difficulties there which put stress on family life. Consult doctors, teachers, social workers etc who know about the needs and resources in your area. Remember some of these people may be your own church members. How is your church supporting them?
THINGS YOU AND YOUR CHURCH CAN DO IN THE YEAR OF THE FAMILY.
*Hold a service for "all-ages".
*Organise baby-sitting or child minding so that parents can be free for an evening.
*Offer support to carers.
*Arrange transport so that elderly or infirm people can attend church *Check church facilities. Is there anywhere for nappy changing? Are there toilets and, if so, are they up or down awkward stairs? Is there a ramp for wheel-chair users and prams? Can improvements be made?
*You may want to help with something that is already happening or you could start something new. Many churches run some of these. How do they help family life?
*Baptism preparation courses. *A parent and toddler group *Parenting courses or support groups for parents.
*A luncheon club for elderly people *A place where divorced or separated parents can meet their children on neutral ground.
*A marriage preparation course, involving married couples within the church.
*A group meeting to strengthen or enrich marriage relationships.
*A group campaigning on a local issue of concern to families *A support group for divorced or bereaved people.
*A collection of books and other resources people have found helped them cope with family life.
******** ******** ************* From a leaflet produced by an ecumenical group including representatives from the Association of Separated and Divorced Catholics, Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, Marriage and Family Life Committee of the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference, Social Welfare Committee of the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference. Further copies of the leaflet are available from The Family Life Education Ecumenical Project, 27 Tavistock Square, London WC I H 91-11-1.