Please Pass the Faith: The Art of Spiritual Grandparenting

Educator teaches about aging well

Please Pass the Faith: The Art of Spiritual Grandparenting
Elsie H.R. Rempel

We’re showing our age. Statistics Canada recently released information that the fastest growing population group is those over age 65. Elsie H.R. Rempel’s book on spiritual grandparenting may be just in time.

Rempel is a baby boomer, a devoted grandmother, and a trained teacher with many years’ experience in school classrooms. This last decade, Rempel has been involved with Mennonite Church Canada faith formation ministries in mentoring and as a consultant. Rempel and her husband Peter belong to Charleswood Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Man.

The back cover reviews of Please Pass the Faith caught my attention with descriptions like “sings,” “delightful,” “enlightening,” “filled with zest and creativity.” A grandmother myself, I was intrigued: with 10 grandchildren, all under age seven, I need all the advice, creativity, and spiritual art I can get my hands on.

I was ready to read this “delightful” book, looking forward to every creative bit I could glean for my own passing of my faith baton.

But I was soon disappointed. Please Pass the Faith is written with an intellectual view about the art of sharing faith with the younger generations who are involved in the life of a senior. The chapters are written in two sections, one part information followed by a series of discussion questions.

The words in this book were heavy, and laden with too much intellect. The subtitle says it’s written for grandparents, but I’m not sure I know too many grandparents who think in phrases like “complex innocence,” “intellectual maturation,” “intuitive projective faith,” or “synthetic and conventional faith.” Muddling through these clinical terms, the reader might wonder where to go to take the exam!

Also, those attempting to do any delightful grandparenting – artfully or spiritually – by reading this book will be saddened by the mentions of death, “dying well,” and the “last third of life.”

Though the book was too academic for me, Rempel proposed several actions easily taken hold of and applied, such as tending our faith, spiritual disciplines, seeing God’s presence in this world, and listening for the still small voice of God.

I liked the section on letting go: “We may need to free ourselves from dreams to embrace reality,” Rempel writes.

Then there was this warning: “Because we see life most clearly from our own perspective, we can be tempted to consider our faith stage the norm, and use it to judge others.” Point taken.

The words of Henri Nouwen whom Rempel quoted ring so true: “Trust that the time ahead of you will be the most important time of your life, not just for you, but for all of us whom you love and who love you.”

In the last chapter, I found some good ideas on how to celebrate holidays to bring out my faith, to share with my children and grandchildren.

Finally, there were two suggestions I will take and use with my grandchildren. One was to encourage them into a short period of active prayer where they show God how high they can jump or how fast they can run. The second was to keep a journal of my grandchildren, dividing the pages into sections for each child, to record things they say and do, shared or overheard. Saving these words on the page, I will delight in bringing it out to read to my grandchildren over again.

Please Pass the Faith may do well as a textbook (it would lead to meaningful discussion in a classroom setting), but for ordinary grandparents, learning the art of spiritual grandparenting, or even passing the faith, is hard to find here.

In the foreword, Rempel writes, “I am simply trying to learn about aging so that the church can have productive discussions about it.” And that’s just it: aging seems to be what this book is about – being a senior – not so much about grandparenting. I find this book speaks more to intellect than to art, it involves discussion rather than teaching, it’s more clinical than spiritual, and it’s more about maturing faith than about sharing it.

The title of this book is misleading; perhaps Maturing Faith: The Art of Aging Well would have been better suited.

—Judy Martens is a member of Arnold Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C. Not yet a senior, she is a grandmother to 10 beautiful grandchildren under age seven. Judy helps lead ladies Bible studies and posts on a blog called “Prime Time: words of my faith, in my life, with you.” 

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