A Light on Every Street

Rev Alison Gilchrist, Presbytery Minister Mission at the Uniting Church WA, is inviting Uniting Churches in WA to turn on a Light in Every Street. LED lights and postcards are available for churches to gift to members of their communities this Christmas. Alison shares her thoughts around what this campaign can offer.

‘Tradition’ has become somewhat of a dirty word in church circles. The last thing most churches want to be recognised as is ‘traditional’.

This understanding, or misunderstanding, has been a thorn in my side as both a church minister and as a missioner, so I have read extensive research and engaged in provocative missional discourse in this area to good avail in terms of church vitality and growth, and seen its beneficial results in many congregations.

What actually comes to mind when folk refer to ‘traditional’ is their particular version of what they like or are accustomed to, and not necessarily the broader or larger Christian tradition, where the neverchanging Gospel has always found a voice in ever-changing cultures. It’s a conversation I’m always up for, but that’s for another day. Suffice to say ‘tradition’ fares far better in other arenas.

Of the many who are investigating the benefits of traditions to promote better emotional adjustment, Dr Steven Wolin, a psychiatrist at the George Washington University, says, “If you grow up in a family with strong rituals, you’re more likely to be resilient as an adult.”

Traditions play an important role in shaping personal identity.

Another researcher, psychologist, Dr Marshal Duke, found those who have an intimate knowledge of their family’s history are typically more well-adjusted and self-confident than children who don’t. There’s something about understanding your past and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself that instills confidence.

Traditions also have the ability to offer comfort and security providing the
antidote to the harried feeling that comes from our fast-paced and everchanging world. There’s comfort in having some constants in your life.

Traditions impart and reinforce values, as well as adding to the rhythm and seasonality of life, which is composed of cycles big and small. Sunrise and sunset; winter, spring, summer, autumn; Christmas, Easter, Pentecost; and traditions tap into the desire to follow this natural rhythm that is embedded deep within us, but which has been flattened out by a contemporary society that creates its own unremitting 24-hour timetable, concentrating only on the now.

Traditions provide a unique way to connect generations especially in the area of lasting memories. Positive childhood memories help make happier and more generous adults.

Psychologists used to consider nostalgia a sign of depression. Fresh research, however, has shown that reflecting fondly on those things in our ‘nostalgia repository’ actually provides a myriad of positive benefits including counteracting loneliness, boosting generosity towards strangers, and staving off anxiety.

As I said at the outset, tradition has fared well, and proven itself valuable, despite our church based misgivings.

The Church’s DNA includes being a catalyst for positive family and community values, we see it modelled in the New Testament and in our history through the ages.

A Light on Every Street has been developed for us to continue in that great tradition in a small, but not insignificant way, and to share something of the Good News of the hope of our faith, by offering a Christmas gift that has the potential to keep giving as those receiving it frame their own new tradition.

More information and resources for A Light on Every Street are available from
Alison by emailing Alison.gilchrist@wa.uca.org.au or call 9260 9800. To read
more visit revivemagazine.org.au/2018/10/31/a-light-on-every-street.

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