Thursday, 15 May 2014

Being Collared (5) - serving or served?

A few weeks ago someone popped their head into the church building as I was putting out chairs and tables and setting things up for the early morning midweek service. The visitor asked me a few questions about the building and whether it was available for hire and if so how much would they be charged.

We chatted for a few minutes longer about this, that and the other and then they asked me what was happening in the building that day. I explained that there was a communion service due to kick off at 09:30 and they asked when the Vicar arrived. When I responded that the Vicar already had arrived they asked where they were - so I told them they were talking to him.

The look on their face was priceless. 'Oh, I thought you were the caretaker, ' was the response, 'I didn't think Vicars did any of the proper jobs in church!'

Pondering that thought for a moment I popped in to the kitchen and put the water boiler on for the tea, coffee and cake session that follows the service and they followed, asking me the most interesting question regarding ministry I'd had for ages:

'Are Vicars allowed to do this sort of thing, after all my old Vicar never did any of that sort of thing!'

'Allowed?' said I, 'If we didn't do this sort of thing much of the work that goes on in churches across the country would never happen.'

What followed was and interesting description of their experience of church and the fact that where they'd come from had been inhabited by what I can only describe as an 'old school' cleric who arrived when everything was set up and left before the clearing up and cleaning took place. The sort of person who lives by the maxim: 'It doesn't start until I arrive and you know when it's ended because I've left!'

Now as much as I know clergy who tell me that this is essential behaviour to ensure that the members don't feel like you're taking their 'little jobs' away from them, I have to say that I can usually be found setting up, clearing away and even doing the washing up. This isn't because I'm driven or seeking to look good but is part of the reality in that it's 'my church' (and that's a statement of belonging - not possession).

Jesus, the Christ, came into this world as a man to be a servant, not to be served and it's better to be a caretaker in my father's house than seek to find a throne for myself in it. I know that deacons were there to do this sort of thing and so free the apostles for higher duties and whilst I understand how this applies to some of the stuff I do in church, the day I consider myself above picking up a broom, moving tables or setting out chairs is the day that I need to return to the pews and relearn what it means to be laos.

Set aside for holy things - humble enough to do those things which are mundane = being a minister of the Gospel.


Gillian Meller said...

"I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God, rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of sinners." My favourite psalm.
(Or if you prefer the KJ: "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.")

Vic Van Den Bergh said...


Psalm 84 is always at the back of whatever I'm doing - without it the potential to be indignant is always with us.

Thanks Gillian :-)

JonG said...

We have had two different Bishops at our services in the last six months. This morning it was one who has spent much of the last couple of decades serving abroad, and both his manner of speaking and his photographs made clear that the emphasis is always on the "serving".

The other was here in a more official category, and your picture immaediately reminded me of the entourage he apparently needed to function. As very much a non-conformist by nature, I was not impressed...