Counting our Blessings is a new, simple scripture-based resource produced by the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship at the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, designed for accompanying families. It aims to help families connect their ordinary, everyday living, giving and caring for life with the sense of being 'blessed' - i.e. that God who is love is present with them, sharing life with them, in and through their love. Counting our Blessings aims to help reveal what Pope Francis calls 'the shepherding of mercy' that is going on in family life all the time. (The Joy of Love #187)
Counting our Blessings aims to create welcoming spaces and help start conversations in a way that enables families to talk first about their own experiences and things that matter to them in their own language, and then to hear God speak into these experiences, through a simple way of engaging with the Word of God in Scripture, and to share these 'blessings' together. It consists of an introduction, and seven stand-alone sessions, each beginning with a 'Real Question' about life experience: What's it like to fall in love? To care for someone who is suffering? To grieve? To feel like an outsider? To be listened to? To feel deeply joyful?
Counting our Blessings is designed to be used in a variety of pastoral-catechetical settings in parishes, schools or chaplaincies, at any number of points where family life intersects with the Church:
Celebrations of birth/baptism preparation for parents
Times of illness/bereavement
Accompanying parents/families in preparation for sacraments
School-Home-parish relationship and points in the RE curriculum
Chaplaincy settings in prisons, hospitals, care homes, special needs
Intergenerational Family Group meetings
Lent or Advent reflection
On-going formation for clergy/lay
Reflections from participants in a 'Counting our Blessings' Taster Session
"I was partnered with someone I have known for many years - perhaps that helped me to experience something special. We got into talking about a picture which illustrated listening and it was surprising how deeply we dug into our impressions. When it came to the time to share an experience of really being listened to I was able to talk deeply about my husband who had died just 14 months previously. I hadn't spoken of this to anyone before and I was able to cry for who and what I had lost. I felt the loss profoundly but also I realised that I had experienced being truly listened to by another who I could also trust with myself. It reinforced in me the knowledge that in faith I can trust my inner feelings to others and be accepted just as I am." Elizabeth
"As part of the experience, we read the Emmaus story, one that we all knew really well; but it brought new insights when put alongside our own experience. On reflection after the session, everyone felt blessed through the sharing of our experiences. Counting Our Blessings helps these conversations to happen in a confidential group setting with the Scripture voice, God speaking into our lives. It's difficult to put into words, but during the session, we had a sense of the truth - God knows us and loves us; God understands us and our feelings, and draws us closer - through one another." Margaret
"Counting our Blessings really can help us support families. Having places to have meaningful conversations, encouraging families to be, or create and become, homes where feelings, however positive or painful they may be, can be expressed safely. This is not easy, especially as an adult, if you have not grown up being able to say how you feel, but it is vital for the well-being, resilience and mental health of our children and young people." Breda
'Counting our blessings' is something we say but rarely do. This experience was a wonderful opportunity to remember the blessings that I had forgotten to count, and to stop the world for a while and share my blessings with another. In our conversation, we talked about our very different experiences of being listened to - and we both discovered 'gems' in our story that have formed us and have given us value. We also remembered conversations that we have missed, and the people who we once shared time with who we have not spoken to for a while. The highlight of the session was actually not a particular activity, but gradually realising the importance of the moment - when someone gives you time and listens with respect, warmth and encouragement. And in return I was given the privilege of doing the same for her. It gave me the chance to 'stop', -with a purpose! To focus my reflection on listening, and remember the people who have given me time in the past - now I can add another name to add to that list.' Micki
Counting our Blessings will be launched in England and Wales during the first week of Advent with a four week social media campaign featuring the tagline:
'count your blessings not your presents'.
Counting our Blessings is available to purchase now for £9 from Matthew James Publishing Ltd: https://matthewjamespublishing.com/product/counting-blessings-bishops-conference/
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