I’ve been hearing quite a bit about the importance of small things in sowing the seeds of faith.
Sometimes it seems like it’s something we say to convince ourselves that our efforts are worth it when we feel a bit small and unimportant (or maybe that’s just me).
Less cynically, though, I really do think it’s true, based on my own journey into faith.
I grew up in a family which was basically indifferent to religion of any kind. It was never discussed, thought about or considered important.
When I was very young we sometimes went to Midnight Mass but that fizzled out after a while. I remember those few services, though, the light and colour and singing and sense of wonder.
Easter was just a chance for extra chocolate. The idea of going to church would never have crossed anyone’s mind.
There was also a huge old children’s Bible in the house which I think belonged to my grandmother (at least it seemed huge then) and I liked looking at the pictures, although I don’t think I really understood that the stories were meant to be true.
Then, when I was about 9, we moved to a new house and the local primary school was a Church of England one, so I had a couple of years of Christian assemblies and visits to the parish church. It didn’t seem to make any difference at the time as I didn’t really think about it, but I still remember enjoying singing the hymns and looking round at the church.
I was also a Brownie for a short while and then a Guide, and there was some Christianity hanging about in the background then. I remember that the only times I went to church on a Sunday at that time was for parades because I wanted a chance to carry the Brownie or Guide flag up the aisle. I know it sounds shallow, but it was an opportunity to be part of something and have a role.
Then I reached the age of 12 and we moved again – this time to France. This was a lonely and extremely difficult time for me, with no friends, little knowledge of French, problems at home and my sister remaining behind in England.
Sometimes I would go and sit in open churches, just on my own, not knowing anything other than that they were places of peace and refuge.
But it was then, when I was at my lowest point of despair, that I suddenly became aware of God’s loving presence all around me. It’s hard to put into words but I knew at that moment that God was real and loved me.
This was a dramatic moment, but I truly believe it wouldn’t have happened without all the small things that came first.
If I hadn’t had that sense of wonder at Christmas services, some idea of Christian ideas through hymns and school and Guiding, a bit of knowledge of the Bible from playing around with an old book, the chance to just sit and be quiet in a holy place, I don’t know that I would have been able to receive and understand the experience that I had.
And so yes, all the small we things we do as churches and individuals to show love, help others, spread the gospel, serve the community, go into schools and so on – they are important and may bear fruit long after the people doing them are gone.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6.9