I like the idea of having a life rhythm. It feels gentler than having a schedule. I think when it comes to wanting to grow in our faith at home, developing an intentional rhythm is a good way to go about this.
The word ‘rhythm’ comes from the Greek word rhein, which means ‘to flow’; it occurs in the arts, such as music, as well as in nature; for example, biological rhythms. Many people find when they organise their activities more in line with biological rhythms, their life is easier and has more ‘flow’. Wouldn’t it be great to find and work with our natural ‘faith rhythm’? I thought it would be interesting to explore some different elements of musical rhythm and see how those relate to rhythms of faith at home.
Although the word ‘rhythm’ doesn’t occur in the Bible, the concept of rhythms of faith is always there! Ancient Hebrews were steeped in rituals and activities, which they repeated at regular intervals, with larger events and rituals which happened once a year or every seven years.
In our churches, rhythm is part of our meetings together, whether that’s a liturgical Anglican service, or the rhythm of a ‘Hello’ song in a toddler group. Using a form of liturgy which works for us is a great way to make connecting with God a regular, easily accessible activity which happens on a regular basis.
Rhythm in music
In music, the rhythm is the way sounds are placed in time. I’m a visual person, so I like to picture musical notes being placed on a massive board, with different spaces between them, representing the segments of sound and silence which make up the rhythm of the music. Some notes are long, others are short. Some are loud, others are quiet. Some parts of the rhythm are bold and strong. These might be the most obvious sounds when listening to the music as a whole, but this doesn’t mean the less dominant sounds aren’t necessary for the balance and movement of the whole piece.
Let’s use this model to consider faith rhythms. Imagine a huge board for mapping out our faith life, day by day, month by month, year by year. Each day, there are mini rhythms, moments in time when we can touch base with God, often through prayer or exploring the Bible. Some times are short, some are longer. Some are alone, like a solo tune in music, others are shared with others, like different instruments in a band. Some go on in the background, like worship music in the car, while others are larger and more dominant, like organising an Easter party.
Rhythm in music starts with a beat, a series of repeated sounds which are the same distance apart in time. Some people call this the ‘heartbeat’. In our faith life, we might have a simple faith activity which we do repeatedly at the same time of the day or week (such as bedtime prayers or a church service). It’s easy to overlook the importance of these, but life is made up of a million small moments, and what we do in these makes our life.
I would always recommend someone start here if they want to grow their faith at home – something small, simple and easy to do, which connects them with God. This can be as simple as a short, out-loud car prayer: “Dear God, please be with us today as we [activity] and help us to bless [people’s names].” This gives everyone a chance to say “Amen” and to choose to be open to God working in and through them today.
Tempo (Italian for ‘time’) tells us the speed of the beat. In music, the tempo is often marked in the music score by the composer. The venue in which music is played has a big impact on how fast a piece can be played and still be heard. A large room may have more reverberation, meaning a piece is better played a little slower.
This is important for our faith rhythms too. The timing of faith ‘activities’ will be different in different seasons and places in our lives. With young children, it’s fairly easy to read a Bible story every day. With older children, prayers around meals become easier than when they were younger, as they are able to contribute more to the content and style. When life changes– house, school, family – faith activity might be more frequent as a family together to receive God’s comfort and help.
In music, beats are organised into groups, with an emphasis on one of the beats. In our faith rhythms, we may have certain activities which serve as an emphasis. We might read the Bible every day at home, and meet with others to study the Bible once a week. We may read a Bible story at bedtime, but at the weekend, get out some toys and ‘play a story’ together in the middle of the day.
What might you do as your emphasis beat? It’s sometimes easier to take something we already do and add a bigger version of it from time to time, rather than start something completely new.
Do you already have some faith rhythms? You might find it interesting to draw or write out a chart showing the rhythms you have. Use some cups and plates to draw a series of four circles inside each other and label them from the centre out with the words: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Annually and outside the last circle, Less Frequently. Then draw or write things into each circle to represent different things you do to nurture your faith.
When you’ve mapped out your current rhythms, think about where or when to add something. Don’t be tempted to add loads of things; a rhythm is repeated, so by adding one element, you’re adding many opportunities to connect with God. Perhaps a short moment to pray each morning, a weekly sharing time as part of a family meal, or an annual marker, such as a biblical feast or celebrating your church’s saint’s day, if appropriate.
The advantage of daily or weekly rhythms is that we feel their flow and see the fruits of them much quicker, as they are repeated more quickly. The advantage of monthly or annual rhythms is that we don’t have to put the work into making them happen so often, and we have time to prepare and look forward to them.
Daily and weekly rhythms are likely to need tweaking on a regular basis, to keep up with the changing seasons and needs of our ever-changing family lives. Annual rhythms are more likely to be things which we do for a longer period, even for life. When you’ve made your plan, share it with a friend, along with what you are going to do today, to help you continue to build your own rhythm.