The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'Next to godliness'

Several months ago it was announced in our church that the weekly cleaning roster had a lot of empty spots on it. The elder reading the announcement impishly suggested that some of the younger members of the congregation might enjoy this opportunity to get involved. It wasn’t meant as a chastisement, but that’s how I took it. Sheepishly, if not begrudgingly, I put my name down for two cleaning sessions.

Like many churches, we rent our building to outside groups to supplement collection-plate offerings. The bathrooms, kitchen and church hall are in constant use during the week—and it shows. Situated close to the Indian Ocean, sand creeps into every crevice, along with general grime from the bus stop right outside the churchyard. Taking on the cleaning proved how much my church needs regular attention.

Dusting the hymnal shelf on each pew, I’ve been given a history of the shenanigans of children for over a century. Older boys carved and dated their names into the wood. Many of the pews have scars on the back of them from generations of small, kicking children. As a mother of a boisterous young boy, it’s comforting to know that other children have misbehaved, especially as my dust cloth moves across the handiwork of men who are now leaders in our congregation.

Most surprising to me is the impact it’s had on my son, Lochlain. It’s been a terrific way to teach him the importance of service. He spends time playing with the nursery toys and crawling around the pipe organ. But he also helps with the dusting. It’s his job to flip the pew cushions. He loves collecting litter and is better at getting underneath the shrubbery than I am. He’s very proud of his contribution.

I’ve gained an extreme satisfaction knowing that my own labor has meant that sore backs and arthritic knees can retire their mops and dust rags. I’m saving the church money and helping to ensure additional rent revenue. Gaining familiarity with the building has brought a sense of ownership and belonging that didn’t exist in me before.

Last week when I told Lochlain it was our turn to clean the church, his response was: “Yippee!” I still don’t get that excited, but I’m thankful that I’ve found another way to contribute.

This week's front page features:

 Dealing with a weak dollar: Dollar's decline also affects the church's global work. (Photo at right.)

Celebrating marriage: Texas congregation throws party for 60 couples married 40 years or more.

Plain mustard: It's not extraordinary after all — but so beautiful.

Congregational history: Connect memory with promise.

Also: Jesus finds his voice.

Also: Grace, Lamott's way.

Also: Prayer on the run.

Read these articles on our front page ...

Discuss the declining dollar:

Twila SchockToday through June 24: Join Twila Schock (right) of ELCA Global Mission/Development Services to discuss the dollar's decline and missionary funding challenges.

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This week on our blog:

 Julie Sevig (right) blogs about her visit to South Dakota. 

Sonia Solomonson blogs about the staff 's travels.

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