Peter Burrows column: Family life matters as much as it ever did

Family life matters as much as it ever did
Family life matters as much as it ever did

Last weekend I spent a very enjoyable time with 21 other members of my family, celebrating three significant birthdays and the engagement of my nephew to his girlfriend.

By Peter Burrow, Bishop of Doncaster

It was a chance to reflect on the importance of the family and the value of spending time together. In our society, many families face new and challenging pressures. The danger is that the frenetic nature of life interrupts quality time that helps build healthy family relationships and values. We all - and children in particular - thrive, grow and develop within the love and safeguarding of a family. Within the family we care for the young, the old and those with needs. Families should be able to offer each member commitment, fun, love, companionship and security.This was borne out in a survey by Barrett Values Centre a few years ago. 4,000 people across the UK were asked to pick 10 values or behaviours that most reflect who they are. Equal and high quality relationships were shown to matter; friendship, compassion, honesty and humour were listed in the top ten. The top two were caring and family. So family still matters and that’s why many politicians and other leaders choose to focus on this as a key issue.

I worry changes to the benefit system will impact most negatively on families already in the greatest need.

From a Christian perspective life is a gift from God and that life includes the family. The church should be a model of family life with members of the Church united like a family. The church still teaches marriage is given, husband and wife may comfort and help each other, living faithfully together in need and in plenty, in sorrow and in joy.It is given they may have children and be blessed in caring for them and bringing them up in accordance with God’s will. Most Christians believe that the best foundation for the family is marriage, and will begin to support families as they prepare for marriage by expressing the intention to support the couple throughout their married life. Whether you have a Christian view of family life and marriage or not, family life matters and lays foundations that impact on our health and wellbeing as we grow and mature into adults. I had a sharp reminder of this over the weekend as I think all those gathered did. We promised not to let it be so long before we got together again and that we wouldn’t let the pressures and demands of busy life get in the way. I was reminded in a school just recently that the most important thing about a promise is keeping it, and I hope we will.

But as our lives get ever busier and stressed I encourage us all not to forget the importance of family and even those who, for one reason or another, don’t live in a family unit, to remember there are qualities and values that we can share in all our relationships.