This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World
Reviewed by Claire J. Salkowski
By Sophfronia Scott and Tain Gregory. Paraclete Press, 2017. 196 pages. $16.99/paperback; $11.99/eBook.
How timely that this deeply personal memoir by a mother and her young son was released for the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Tain Gregory was present in his third grade class on that notorious day in December 2012 and experienced more personal loss than any child should have to endure at such a tender age. His ability to process the events of that day and grapple with profound questions of faith in such a knowing way revealed a solid inner strength that emanated from his own deeply held beliefs and sustained experience with a faith community that was able to be truly present to community and individual needs in times of both darkness and light.
This book traces the spiritual journey of an adoring mother and her thoughtful son. It reveals the way in which they came to a place of deep knowing and acceptance of the mystery that life includes both great joy as well as sorrow and loss. Sophfronia Scott details her own quest for a spiritual and religious life beginning as the child of a large Baptist family in Ohio. Taking the lead from her young son, she was able to lay the ground for his own spiritual awakening by listening and responding to his insightful questions and thoughtful queries. She shares the specific details of their expedition and refinement of a faith that was able to hold them up through the crashing waves and stormy seas of great tragedy and personal loss.
Many parents grapple with similar issues of faith and personal belief, wondering how best to impart such values and provide meaning to their children. Although the author does not claim to have all the answers, she deftly models a way that may serve as a guide for others. In its simplest form, she listened intently and was able to perceive her son’s readiness to begin his own spiritual journey, which in turn informed her own. She intentionally provided experiences for the family that nurtured such need and blossomed into a faith and practice that sustained them all through harrowing times and led to their own discovery of meaning and purpose.
As an educator of children for many years, I know that children learn best from modeling and doing for themselves. Our work, as the adults in their lives, is to be the guide and to live the questions ourselves. We serve children best when we provide the right environment to allow them the freedom to form their own questions and find answers on their own. Spiritual development is no different, as illustrated by this timely book.
In the wake of our most recent events of gun violence in our schools, we have all witnessed a growing response by the young people themselves to seek and demand answers to complex and confusing questions that go to the very heart of society. We are poised to learn important lessons from the youth of today, if we dare to listen and respond.
As Quakers, we believe in the inner light and the innate goodness that resides within us all. If we are authentic to ourselves, to our beliefs as Quakers, and to the inner spirit of the child, we will achieve a lasting and positive experience with children as we endeavor to nurture their spiritual well-being in our meetings and our families. Nurturing those values and deeply held beliefs is the work of families and faith communities everywhere.