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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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On the road to Emmaus | A spirituality of small talk

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.

LUKE 24:13–14


If there’s one thing Christians love to grumble about, it’s that ‘small talk over coffee after the service doesn’t count as fellowship’.

It’s easy to be sneery about small talk: it’s boring, it’s tiring, it doesn’t really count. But whether it’s over coffee after the Sunday service or at the kettle between Monday meetings, small talk is a ubiquitous part of our universal human experience.

We talk about the weather, the football, the route here, how our weeks have been, what we saw on TV last night, how busy we are right now. We ask the polite questions, avoid over-sharing with our answers, and all agree to play by the rules of this little conversational game.

And as we play the game, we perform an elegant social dance. We feel a little safer with each other. We allow ourselves to know and be known some more. Small talk may be small, but it’s certainly not trivial.

Notice how the travellers on the road to Emmaus talk about ‘everything that had happened’ for some distance of their seven-mile journey. And what ‘everything’ includes: where they were, what they said, who they met. The inconsequential details nestled amidst the enormous drama. The weather, the football, their route so far and the route ahead.

Ok, perhaps they didn’t talk about the football. They were walking away from Jerusalem with heavy hearts – the political saviour they had hoped for had been executed in humiliation. But it’s not such a leap to imagine that their interaction – like so many of our interactions – included its share of small talk.

It’s significant that before Jesus appeared, he allowed the travellers to talk for a while. And so I wonder what might happen on my own frontline if I showed up with Jesus-given allowance to just talk. If I let go of the wish that this conversation was some other kind of conversation.

At the very least, I might model something of Jesus’ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. And I might see that, really, there’s no such thing as small talk. Because every conversation connects, which means that every conversation counts.

Imagine what might happen in the conversations with our colleagues, friends, neighbours, and congregations, if Christians talked like that.

Perhaps we might realise that small talk counts as fellowship after all.

Tim Yearsley
Head of Innovation, LICC

What might happen if you enter your conversations with Jesus-given permission to talk for a while? Join the conversation below.


  1. A refreshing – and true – take on the topic of small talk, thanks!

    By Bruce Gulland  -  10 Jul 2023
  2. I’m a great believer in small talk! I was a hospital chaplain for 20 years and in that time engaged in much small talk which, on subsequent encounters, led to very significant conversations.

    By Rev Allan Taylor  -  10 Jul 2023
    • Love this, thanks Rev Allan! Send me an email with what you learned about how to do small talk like Jesus!

      By Tim Yearsley  -  10 Jul 2023

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