Michele Burke May, 2009
Courtesy of Eliza Blanchard & Rocco Baviera
A Child’s Book of Blessings and Prayers by Eliza Blanchard has taken graces, blessings and prayers from around the world in a wondrous attempt to unite the children of the world through the common thread of spirituality. A Child’s Book of Blessings and Prayers is a must have for all children not only because of its beautiful illustration but its connection underlying connection to the oneness for us all.
* Available through the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Price: $12.00 – http://www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?SKU=4753
Interview with Eliza Blanchard
Pagan Pages (PP): Who is Eliza Blanchard?
Eliza Blanchard (EB): I’ve worn a number of hats, but currently I’m a Unitarian Universalist minister, a helpmeet, and the mother of two young adults. I’ve loved reading, writing, religious questions and rituals since I was a child. I also enjoyed teaching, especially writing, to people from pre-kindergarten through adulthood.
PP: How did you come about writing the book, what was the inspiration behind it?
EB: I’ve taught religious education classes to children on and off since I was seventeen—like I said, I’ve been interested in religion for a long time and I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm. When my children were in high school I became the director of religious education for a Unitarian Universalist congregation. At a conference I got curious about the history and idea behind prayer. Since Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal religion welcoming to atheists along with others, prayer has not been central in our more recent liturgies. During that time I also took part in a Unitarian Universalist woman’s group, female in theology, and we worked with blessings. So when a parent mentioned that she couldn’t find a U.U. book of prayers, it all came together.
PP: Why A Child’s Book of Blessings and Prayers?
EB: Later, when I became a minister, I wanted to know what I could do to support families with children in our tradition, and one parent in my congregation gave voice to a thought that had been brewing in me: Wouldn’t it be great to have a family resource to explore prayers and blessings? Why children? I think because children are especially interested in and needing guidance on questions of the spirit, like what can we do if we hurt someone, where can we take our most joyful joys, how can we honor this gift of life, and where do we take our deepest sorrow.
PP: Why such a diverse collection?
EB: Given the Unitarian Universalist commitment to religious freedom and our embrace of a variety of sacred texts, my editor and I decided the book should include reflections of that diversity and our embrace of it. This collection offers parents and children a place to start a discussion, a place to begin a practice, and a plurality of languages and images with which to journey toward answers.
PP: How long have you been a Unitarian Universalist minister?
EB: I’ve been a minister for almost five years. I felt called to ministry in mid-life, yet I never felt that it was a radical change from teaching. Teaching is a part of any ministry, as is learning, and doing both in a religious community is stimulating. It’s an exciting journey.
PP: What led you to the Unitarian Universalist Association?
EB: Family. When my husband and I were ready to settle down and have children, we wanted to provide our children with a religious home as well. My husband suggested we try the Unitarian Universalist church in town because he felt we might find a community of fellow liberal religious seekers there. The congregation was welcoming and we laughed liberally during the first service we attended. That was a revelation! We knew we’d found what we were seeking for ourselves and our family.
PP: What was the most important thing to you when writing A Child’s Book of Blessings and Prayers?
EB: Most important to me was that this collection be diverse and yet accessible to families. That’s why some of the prayers and blessings, like the final “Day is done,” are familiar ones, while others, like the Jewish blessing “Be who you are,” may be new to readers. And that’s the reason I tried to find material that includes as many of the world’s religious traditions as possible. What was hardest was to leave some beautiful and helpful words out. Maybe there’s a sequel there!
PP: What do you hope will come from this book? Do you think that A Child’s Book of Blessings and Prayers will inspire the parents as well as the children into a more spiritual existence?
EB: I hope that people will enjoy and be comforted by this book. Rocco Baviera’s delightful illustrations draw us in, and the thoughts and feelings expressed bring forth that deep level of sharing that can nurture and sustain children and those who care for them.
Yes, experiencing prayers and blessings can be the start of a rich spiritual quest, an expansion of horizons and a greater appreciation for what we as human beings share in spite of different cultures and religions. We’ve included a bibliography at the back for anyone who wants to travel that path.
PP: Do you have any other works in progress? And if so will I get first shot at them? LOL
EB: I have several ideas, including writing a book of blessings and prayers for middle schoolers. In my research for this book, I found nothing that spoke to their moral and spiritual concerns. I am also planning to do a book of meditations on aging (and sage-ing). I will certainly let you know when they become a reality! And I want to thank you very much for this opportunity to share this books’ birth story.
The Paper Chain, by Eliza Blanchard, Kathy Parkinson and Claire Blake
Review from Amazon.com
“The Paper Chain is a wonderful book to help families cope with an ill parent. Beautifully illustrated with excellent coverage of the important issues, it is sensitive, realistic, insightful and practical. It is a book which would be helpful to many of the families we serve.” — Cancer Care, Inc. Carolyn Messner, ACSW Director of Education