December stillness conjures images of quiet walks in nature, listening for a bird call, or being in a cloud of snowflakes drifting onto the forest floor. Stillness is frequently partnered with quiet, times when we set aside the noise of life, recognize the present moment, and perhaps gain clarity on what we are feeling and thinking.

As a parent in a noisy family, I know setting aside the noise of life to become still is rare. I wonder, can we find stillness together without silence? Where is stillness in the family life? I find that shared stillness is elusive. One of the few places I know to find it is in church, gathering with all of you, sometimes holding powerful moments of silence. But listening and singing together also has the power of collective stillness.

“Return again, Return again,
Return to the home of your soul.
Return to who you are,
Return to what you are,
Return to where you are
born and reborn again.”

– Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

These are the words from one of the hymns in our teal hymnal, known as Singing the Journey. It is a song that I find resonates with the stillness inside of me. I used to cherish singing this chant over and over again to my child when he was an infant struggling to go to bed. Singing it each night helped ground me in my new identity and purpose as a parent. The stillness in that song is not about silence, but intention and presence. How can we return to the home of our souls together as a family?

Especially in the last few months, all together under one roof all of the time, we have found that family moments of stillness need to be cultivated and put on our schedule. It is far too easy to get caught up in the list of things to be done in a day. Ritualized moments of stillness like reading a book at bedtime together, sharing gratitude before a meal, is the only way to ensure stillness into our full family schedules. To claim stillness in family life, we often must abandon the idea of silence and reframe stillness as moments of co-created intention.

May you find opportunities to welcome and cherish stillness within your families this holiday season and even add some new rituals of shared intention.

— Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education

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