The Year of Small Things is at its essence a church story. The Arthurs and the Wasingers, who committed to a year of small things, don’t operate independent of Sycamore Creek Church. Our prayers and other spiritual disciplines don’t replace worshiping with our people in Lansing and Potterville. So, you can imagine the energy fueling our five-week series.
Fun part: the energy didn’t come from having me and Sarah preach each message. (We didn’t.) Our fellow Sycamore Creek-ers love us, but they are not impressed by us. They’ve seen us trip over a minuscule patch of ice in the parking lot. Spill our coffee. They’ve heard us sing off-key. We have zero celebrity cred.
The energy fueling the series came from a group of people — small groups of people — who are together reading the book and meeting to talk about the small things they’d like to see in their own lives. Imaginations are quicker to spark when discussions are happening in community.
The book makes a great study or series because of its community-oriented nature. So — interested in plugging in a sermon series? Here are the nuts and bolts: The Year of Small Things series is a five-week study of the themes of the book by the same name (we chose covenantal friendship, hospitality, vows, kid monasticism, and self-care). Because our churches are wonderfully diverse (and most don’t know what new monasticism is), we centered our sermons around Hebrews 13, which touches on just about every theme.
During my husband Tom’s final year (my first) in seminary at Duke Divinity School, he sent out an email to our ethics class. We knew that once I graduated we would be leaving Isaiah House of Hospitality and everything we had learned in community; Tom would become a United Methodist pastor in Michigan, where we came from. Within Methodism’s appointment system, we would not get to choose our zip code, much less our community. And we could be moved annually thereafter.
So Tom’s email was both a question and an invitation.
The question: How do we live out a vision for community, downward mobility, and radical hospitality within the itinerant (and sometimes subtly upwardly mobile) system of mainline denominations?
Innocuous enough, and yet life-changing for the Arthurs. I won’t go into how we fell in love with not only the household but the vision, how we prayed, and talked, and came over for more meals. Suffice it to say, by fall semester we did not renew our lease on the one-bedroom near Duke.
We moved into the ‘hood–and stayed. For three years we shared a household with other community members committed to simplicity, hospitality, sustainability, and reconciliation—as well as with women and children in transition out of homelessness.
“I think we’re almost there,” I (Sarah) said, hands at ten and two on the wheel of the moving truck we had called home for the past thirty hours. As we eased down the suburban-country road south of Lansing, Michigan that Memorial Day morning seven years ago, our rusty Subaru trailering behind us, Tom and I gazed with interest out the truck windows. A newish subdivision, a church or two. Two farm stands (hooray!), followed by a barn with pygmy goats, and then more subdivisions. Garage sale signs by the dozens. Bus stops. Most properties well-manicured, even picturesque. And then–unexpectedly–a trailer park, across from which we read the sign for yet another subdivision, “English Meadows.”