By Bishop Ann Svennungsen

“I need more family.” These are the words of Jira, an adopted African-American teenager, spoken after her father is killed. “I need more family,” she says, to support her newfound desire to find her birth mother. Her story is told in the mini-series The Red Line, a profound glimpse into the lives of three families after the tragic shooting of Jira’s father by a police officer.

“I need more family.” Have you ever felt that need? Oh, sometimes more family simply appears. Friends bring dinner every night when you’re recovering from surgery. Your church builds a fence for your yard after your son is born with Down Syndrome.

Just a generation ago, “more family” was part of the deal. My father was one of nine siblings. I am one of 26 close-knit cousins on Dad’s side alone.


WHAT ABOUT 2019? And, what about the ordinary times – when no one is sick and “more family” simply shows up with a covered dish? How do we foster this deep need for relationships in the ordinary days? I rejoice to see how our churches are doing this. And, I pray you experience both community-building worship and small group relationships within your church home.

But, I’m curious about faithful practices to build “more family” with neighbors and friends. I’m probably more of an introvert than extrovert, so I may find this more challenging. Still, I’d love to hear good ideas. How have you built community in your neighborhood or with the people down the hall in your apartment or condo building? How have you deepened the relationships you already have? What does it look like when followers of Jesus seek to create “more family”?

“What does it look like when followers of Jesus seek to create ‘more family’?”

Though I’m hesitant to quote from two TV shows in one posting, I’ll close with words from the final scene of Life Itself. (I don’t recommend the movie – it received pretty bad reviews, especially for being too preachy. I blame my watching it on “post synod assembly” syndrome) Still, I like these words from a mother to her young adult son as she is dying:

Listen to me: you have had many ups and downs in your life. Too many. And you will have more. This is life and this is what it does. Life brings you to knees. It brings you lower than you think you can go. But if you stand back up and move forward, if you go just a little farther, you will always find love.

You can almost hear Luther’s theology of the cross in her words. Though Luther would probably say, “Yes, life brings you to your knees. But, even there love will find you.”