How's that for a thought? Here's the story:
When I was little, I attended a rural United Church of Christ in Ohio. It had towering pines and three massive stained glass windows. One of my first memories is of my baby brother getting baptised when I was a little over 2 years old. The reason I remember is my older brother and I were left crying in the pew while our parents abandoned us (well, that's how it felt, anyway).
I attended this church from the time I was about a year-and-a-half until I left home at 18. Those years had much influence in my life from the minister's wife who did chalk drawings for the Sunday School kids to our fun youth group and confirmation classes, annual socials with it's homemade food and the fish pond, junior and senior choir, Christmas Eve, Bible School, programs, kickball games where kicking the ball over the graveyard fence was an automatic homerun, ice cream socials, and myriad other wonderful memories.
In spite of all I learned as a member of this church, the most important thing I learned is that I was loved. And I learned it best when I was three years old in the nursery Sunday School Class. My teacher was a kind, pretty young woman from the congregation. She taught us all the usual Bible stories with a smile and great kindness. And then that fateful Easter Sunday, she brought each of her little students a small card with two fuzzy yellow chenile wire chicks, their orange feet stapled to the card. This is the first time I ever remember getting a gift from someone other than family.
In that simple (and I'm sure inexpensive) gift, I remember feeling loved by a member of that church for the very first time - I'm sure I was loved all along - most toddlers in the church are, but this is my first conscious memory of knowing I was loved by someone at church. I believe it was the beginning of not only life-long affection for the church (though I no longer live in Ohio) but the start of my life-long church attendance and coming to know Jesus Christ.
The moral of the story, to me is, we just don't know how much little acts of love will be remembered in our churches. Developing memorable programs, that share memorable love for anyone who joins us for our services, fellowship and meetings can't help but bring growth to our ranks. Blessing to the emergent community!