Charlotte’s Web is an inspiring story for small congregations. As the story opens, Fern’s father is on his way to the hoghouse, ax in hand, intending to kill the runt of a newborn litter of pigs. “It’s very small and weak, and it will never amount to anything. So your father has decided to do away with it,” Fern’s mother explains.
Fern cannot believe what she is hearing. “Do away with it?” shrieks Fern. “You mean kill it? Just because it’s smaller than the others?”
“Don’t yell, Fern,” her mother replies. “Your father is right. The pig would probably die anyway.”
If author E.B. White had used a word we sometimes use in the church, he would have written, “He’s not viable.”
As the story unfolds, Fern lovingly nurtures the little pig, now named Wilbur, and he thrives. Later Wilbur moves to Fern’s Uncle Homer’s barn where he makes new friends. The most special friend is a gray spider named Charlotte, who comes up with an ingenious plan to get the humans to see Wilbur in a different way. Whereas the humans see Wilbur as a runt or as future bacon, Charlotte gets them to see that he is “Some Pig,” “Terrific,” “Radiant,” and “Humble.” In succession she weaves these words into her web, and the humans get the message.
Scripture makes it clear that God’s vision is quite different from human vision, particularly when it comes to what the world sees as small and weak. This means that your small congregation is not a runt! What God sees in you is a community that is “Beloved,” “Beautiful,” “Blessed,” and “Brimming with Potential.”
Our small congregations need friends like Fern and Charlotte who see them through the eyes of God. With this kind of vision they can thrive!
E.B. White. Charlotte’s Web. New York: HarperCollins, 1952. Illustrations by Garth Williams.