I was talking with Fiona, Anna and B about the start of Talls and Smalls. B suggested I told the story of the mothers and toddlers’ group I joined in my next blog. So, B’s wish …….
When my first child was born, I was very ignorant. Not only was I the youngest in my immediate family but I was also the second youngest of my generation in the wider family. So, I had no experience with babies. Add to that, my Mum – everyone’s first port of all – lived in a different country. I was known to walk around with the baby on one arm and the “how to” book about babies in the other hand.
Fortunately, the church had started a mothers and toddlers’ group where I could ask questions or just listen and observe how all the competent mums managed. We met in someone’s house once a fortnight. The mums shared a coffee and a chat while the kids played with or against each other around us. That was all there was to it.
It wasn’t a huge outreach project. It wasn’t super spiritual, but it did provide me with friendship and a safe place to learn.
My memory is a bit vague when this happened but after a while the minister’s wife suggested we met in the intervening week to study the bible in her home. She arranged a baby-sitter and people were welcome to come to one or the other or both of the gatherings. We were supplied with a book to read and one of the rules of the bible study was that everyone took a turn leading. I still wince when I think of my first attempt!
As the years passed, children started moving on to school and mums to go to work so there was always a fluidity in the membership of the mothers and toddlers. Eventually all the children in that batch were in school and the mothers and toddlers closed. Although it has been re-opened at other times for other groups of mums, minders and babies.
But the bible study continued. We changed from mid-morning to just after the morning school run and then to the evening. This opened it up to women without children. It had always been open to women from other church backgrounds which has led to debates on the existence or not of angels, whether we should pray to Mary or Jesus and more helpfully challenged our denominational assumptions. We have had really experienced and very erudite Christians and newbies straight off an Alpha course. Our numbers at any one time have ranged from 4 to 15. There has always been a throughput of women as their life-circumstances changed. Some have left and then returned when it fitted with home life again.
We have mostly met in people’s homes on a rotating basis needing some complicated lift arrangements in recent years but on occasion we have kept to one person’s house when that suited e.g. they couldn’t come otherwise as they were on crutches.
At one point, we felt we should reach out to other women in the church and ran a series of women’s breakfasts. It was interesting in that we invited women who had moved on from the church to tell us about their current lives. Once we moved on to unknown speakers, it became less attractive to church members and numbers dwindled. So, we let it go.
We’ve been asked how we can laugh so much if we’re studying the bible. We’ve been challenged that women can’t run a proper bible study – praise be, we had an accredited local preacher at that time!
We have studied books of the bible, topics from the bible, people in the bible – inevitably we have done the women of the bible multiple times – always we have a focus on what it means for our day to day lives. We have used books, study guides, dvds and like everyone else during covid, Zoom. The name of the game really is flexibility and not to be afraid to move on as things change.
My firstborn is 41 today who would have thought that we would still be meeting once a fortnight seeking to encourage and enrich the women who are there while they are there in the best way we can? Sometimes I think we make things too difficult. God is always faithful but all he asks of us is
““The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29
Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash