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About Amelia

Amelia Richardson Dress is the author of  the award winning book The Hopeful Family: Raising Resilient Children in Uncertain Times. She writes about education, parenting and contemplative spirituality.  Also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, she serves as the Minister for Community Faith Formation at First Congregational, United Church of Christ Longmont, Colorado. 

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Q and A with Amelia

What prompted you to tackle this question of raising hope-filled kids?

Kids today are experiencing a lot of uncertainty about the future. It’s not unusual to hear them asking questions about climate change, technology, school safety or even national security. Parents are asking all kinds of questions too, about what the world will look like and what future their kids will have.

I hear those as questions of hope. I don’t mean reassurance, like, “Don’t worry, it’ll all be ok.” I mean real hope, like “Where is God when the world seems so uncertain?” “What can we even believe in?”

Hope is about living meaningfully, and that’s the root of the questions people are facing. 

The Hopeful Family is structured around nine spiritual practices. What is a spiritual practice, broadly? 

A spiritual practice is a way of living. It’s funny that we call them “spiritual” practices because most spiritual practices are really very hands-on. How we eat can be a spiritual practice. Rest is a spiritual practice. Hospitality is a spiritual practice. These are all things we do often, if not daily.


The “spiritual” part is the intention we give them. So how do we eat is a spiritual question. How are we generous to others–that’s a spiritual question. Spiritual practices are the intersection between what we believe and how we act. 

Your focus for this book is connecting research on mental health and wellbeing with traditional spiritual practices. Why did you take that approach? 

In short, I wanted to know if these practices “worked” in some measurable way. I have anecdotes from people, and personal experiences, but I really like data. There are certain things that I believe because of my faith. I believe we should be generous. I believe we should be grateful. I believe we can connect with God in prayer. And I’ve experienced that as beneficial. But I also wanted to know if those things matter in how we cope. That’s the resilience part. Do we “bounce back” better if we’re more generous? Does having a “bigger story,” or a purpose, really affect how we cope with stress? That’s where the mental health research came in.

Why did you structure the book around spiritual practices?


Part of the question I was wrestling with, as a pastor, is “what’s the role of the church when faced with uncertainty?” I wanted to explore how we move beyond providing mere reassurance, which is just optimism, to provide real hope, which isn’t afraid of looking at the facts. I also wanted it to be something that’s actionable. We can, and should, talk to kids about what real hope looks like, but we also need to live in hopeful ways. Spiritual practices are ways of structuring our day to day lives. 

You wrote this book in the summer of 2020. What was it like writing a book about hope in uncertain times during a pandemic? 

It was intense and also amazing. I didn’t set out to write a pandemic book. I was in conversation with publishers just before covid 19 hit the U.S. It meant that I was writing the book during the early months of living through safe at home measures, and all the confusion and uncertainty that those early months held, so that was the intense part. The amazing part was that I got to practice what I was preaching. So when all that chaos hit and every day was a new challenge, I could see if changing the way we live our daily lives really helps us be more hopeful in the face of uncertainty. 

You mention that spiritual practices are unifying practices, what do you mean by that?

One of the gifts of spiritual practices is that they’re shared across religious traditions. Most, maybe all, religions have teachings about generosity, for example. Forgiveness, eating, rest…these are all practices that religions share. Because of this, we can practice these together and learn from each other. When I was writing about food, I turned to a Jewish colleague for deeper insight from their tradition, and it helped me understand my own Christian tradition. 

There are differences in how we understand and also practice these things. That’s important too because we learn from these differences. But having things we can do together, and ways to act hope-fully together is especially important in times of uncertainty. 

You talk about these 9 practices as “embodied theology.” Why is that so powerful for people, including kids?

I love to do theology with kids. Sitting down and having a really deep theological conversation about God with a bunch of elementary school students is incredible for me, and I think that talking about these big questions like, “Who is God,” matters. But we don’t learn only in our minds. We also learn in our bodies. Take prayer, for example. We can talk about prayer, and that’s good, but we can also do prayer together and that’s important too. We can tell kids they should be generous, or we can practice being generous together. 

The way we live teaches as much as what we say, if not more. That’s embodied theology. We’re living out what we believe about God.


I'm always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.


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