Book Review: Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home, by Elissa Bjeletich & Caleb Shoemaker. Reviewed by Paraskevi Whitton.
We are all familiar with the need to convert our hearts and minds to become fully Orthodox, and this most useful book helps us to also convert our homes and family life into living fully as Orthodox Christians as well. This book does an excellent job in helping the reader understand not only what the Little Church is, but also how to transform and convert our homes and daily lives to increasingly become more fully Orthodox.
The authors are mindful about creating realistic expectations for the reader and caution us to go slowly, and be patient with small steps. They continually remind the reader that each home is unique and that no two homes will do things exactly the same way – there are no two home prayer areas that are identical. This book helps to encourage the reader rather than make us feel we are failures if we do not have the perfect Orthodox home and family life.
Besides the many practical suggestions that are offered throughout this book in how to apply our faith into our daily lives and establish an Orthodox presence in our homes, the authors also help ground the reader with the deeper foundations necessary to be successful in creating a harmonious Orthodox Little Church. Wisdom is offered through the authors’ admonitions to move away from ingrained practices such as compartmentalizing God and faith as something only for Sundays. The authors remind us to include God in every aspect of life and home, to talk with our priest, to be open to learning the why behind what is done. They further encourage us to slowly move away from inherited ways of doing things, if they are distorted or watered down, and move towards more purposeful and meaningful Orthodox practices that help us to center our lives on the Church.
For parents, the authors offer tremendously helpful advice such as the need for parents to move away from raising good kids, to raising saints. They remind us that discipline is not negative, but that the word itself means making a disciple. Discipline should be about teaching the children how to become disciples, so that they will grow to exhibit the good behaviors they see in their parents, such as being prayerful in church, chanting/singing, standing, being loving and patient.
There is much richness in this book. It causes the reader to pause and think about the greater objectives, the higher calling given to us all as members of the Body of Christ. This book reminds us to instill this higher calling into our daily lives, from Sunday to Sunday, from one Divine Liturgy to the next Divine Liturgy. It calls us to live in such a way that we are intentional and thoughtful about spending our time away from Church as if we were still in Church. The goal of this book is to help us order our homes like the little home churches they are called to be, so that each of our homes look, feel, sound and function as if it is a Little Church.