My gran told me....

My gran modelled by example

Emma’s early experience of church was not good – she was thrown out of Sunday school! She kept questioning the facts, but her questions were too big for that Sunday school. How did Genesis and evolution go together?

Yet her grandmother revealed there was more to discover about God. She started and ended each day in prayer. The way she lived showed Emma that a relationship with God is part of life.

“Because my gran just lived this faith, I couldn’t understand how what I was being taught fitted with what I knew of life. The simple Bible stories were too simple. They didn’t work for me. I got more and more frustrated with church, but kept very close to God.”


As Emma grew older, she went to youth groups run by churches. Her approach to prayer was different to theirs – she prayed in private, chatting to God. She didn’t connect with what she encountered. Yet the church taught her social justice and she enjoyed charity fundraising. 

Her grandmother continued to inspire. In her 80s she would visit elderly people, take flowers and jam, help clean. She would always say, “Hello, I’m Margaret Wyley from the church down the road.”

“She never told me what to do. She modelled by example… God flows through that.”

When her grandmother died, she felt really connected to God at the funeral. “At those events – christenings, weddings, funerals – I connected with churches. They were positive experiences, very moving.”

The years passed and Emma married. She did not attend church regularly. After a while, family life became traumatic. Four boys died before birth. When a fifth child was expected, Emma had a strong feeling that she had to go to church.

“I needed to be in a community of people and to bring [my daughter] up with that. It mattered. It was God at work. It was one of those things you can’t explain.” 

After visiting a couple of churches, Emma discovered St Nicolas and immediately thought “This is it.” It had a sense of calm. She went to a service and was warmly welcomed – “everything I’d never experienced.”

That was the beginning of a new stage in her faith. Years later, the day Emma became a Licensed Lay Minister, she returned to her grandmother’s church. Her grandmother wanted people to know they were loved, and for her that was all about God’s love. Emma’s ministry was to start there too. 

As told to Pathways by Emma Major, Licensed Lay Minister at St Nicolas, Earley. 

Children and young people’s groups have changed a lot since Emma was a child. Disciples Together is an example of how they’re changing again. And if you’re interested in exploring lay ministry for yourself, you can find more information here.

Page last updated: Monday 27th November 2023 1:26 PM
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