A mysterious phenomenon takes place in our church each week. That bulletin stuck inside the hymnal to mark the next song — it disappears. So does the stick-figure portrait with big ears that your little one drew. Offering envelopes are restocked; missing pens replaced; and attendance folders are filled and repositioned at the end of each pew. Divine miracle? No, this integral work of readying the sanctuary for weekly worship is a result of the behind-the-scenes ministry called the Pew Crew.
Pew Crew isn't a service choice for those seeking accolades and attention. And it's true, Pew Crew can become mundane. However, there are interesting moments — like the time a spider crawled out of the welcome folder we were handling. And interesting things are left behind too. We recently found three paint chips in the pew rack in the following colors: "Presidential Suite," "Bottle Blue" and "Yacht Club Blue." We also found an offering envelope filled out for $500 — but empty inside.
Over time we've obtained quite a collection of notes and artwork, including a piece titled "Fluffy the Hippo." Most are drawn on little yellow sheets of pew paper that our church provides with the heading "Scribble Sheet for Little Lutherans." And it's not just the little ones who doodle. We found a detailed sketch of the floor plan for the new sanctuary addition. Apparently somebody was taking good notes at the informational meeting.
So what does all this mean? Does it mean parents are purposely choosing to ignore what happens to their kids' notes, drawings and paper airplanes? Does it mean worshipers are blatantly trying to show disrespect for the sanctuary when they leave a bulletin behind or put a hymnal back in the wrong direction? Does it mean parishioners should be scolded for their inattentiveness and carelessness? It's easy to become callous to the clutter and miss the meaning beneath the mundane.
For example, less-than-perfect pew racks mean our church is alive. The messiness means families are worshiping. Misplaced hymnals mean people are singing. Children's activity sheets left in the pews mean kids are learning. Envelope slots in need of restocking mean people are giving.
Yes, sometimes the sanctuary looks well-lived-in. But that's just what one would expect from an active congregation. After all, a church building should be more of a house rather than a museum. The clutter is just an indication that the family's been home.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers