Once upon a time there was a pastor who inherited a church on a large island, but that was about it — there was a church building, but not much else. There were a few old souls who came regularly, but most of the younger ones stayed away. They were too busy with the fields and animals, with the new satellite TV, internet, and their own business.
And when the pastor would inquire after them in town or in the pub they'd excuse themselves with the explanation that they prayed better without all those people around them. They did better with their own quiet along the shore or by their own fireplace or kitchen table after everyone else had gone to bed.
So the pastor started visiting them one by one. He'd sit by the fire, drink tea, chat about the price of grain or sheep, and not mention religion. The fire would be crackling warm while the wind gusted outside, and the pastor would lean over and take a twig out of the fire. He was careful to take one that was glowing hot and burning well, and he would lay it on the edge of the stone fireplace and let it sit. He'd continue with the conversation and say not a word about the twig.
And as they'd talk the twig would cool down; the glow would begin to fade; the twig would smoke and eventually die out. When that happened the pastor would stop in midsentence, look his parishioner in the eye, and put the twig back on the fire, holding it until it caught again. And then he'd take his leave.
The first man got the message. Next day a woman did. Pretty soon the story started getting around, and by the end of the month the church was packed…
Why? Because they understood, they needed the fire (God) and they needed each other.
(a story from Scotland, from Megan McKenna )