Sitting at the local coffee shop recently, someone asked me about what happened around church in the “off season.” Further conversation revealed this person seemed to think Christmas and Easter were the busy times, and not much else of note took place around church between those two holidays. I responded that for a parish our size, the month of October is often the busiest month of the year in terms of “to-do’s” and a general sense of urgency. My conversation partner’s forehead wrinkled in thought, and she asked, “Why? What’s so busy about October?” I then described the plethora of committee meetings, parish events, and of course the annual round of stewardship work — in particular the soliciting of pledges to fund the mission and ministry of the parish for the upcoming year.
My friend then said, “That’s why I go to St. Whoever’s. They’ve got people who handle all of that icky stuff so I can just go and enjoy the liturgy. I never have to worry about getting dragged into the politics of church. I don’t have to plan an annual gift, I just drop a few bucks in the offering plate when I attend a liturgy. In fact, I can be gone for months and no one will ever miss me. It’s nice not to have any pressure around going to church.”
After she procured her latte and went on her way, I kept thinking about our exchange. I began to wish I had simply responded to her original question about “what was happening” around church by saying, “Oh, the usual. How’s school going for your son?” Then we could have engaged in the sort of small talk that’s most comfortable for burb-types. From there we could have had quite a conversation about the Milwaukee Brewers’ great end of season run, and maybe even speculated about the possibilities for the Green Bay Packers this season. Whatever.
Today, as I write this little reflection, I can hear the hubbub emanating from the parish hall as folks prepare for the annual fundraising event which enables Trinity Church to give away thousands of dollars to all sorts of agencies and ministries throughout Milwaukee County and beyond. This event will be the culmination of months of planning, plenty of prayer, and no small amount effort on the part of the committee charged with orchestrating it. If all goes well, lots of people will attend, and lots of money will be raised. I am grateful for the group of people for whom this event is worth investing untold hours of time and huge amounts of energy. I am grateful for their care and concern for the needs in the community beyond our walls, and for their care and concern that people within our parish know about those needs. They are doing the part of church that often goes unnoticed — the behind-the-scenes-gruntwork necessary to make any parish event, large or small, happen.
I’m praying for the event’s success. I’m also praying for the people of St. Whoever’s and my coffee shop friend. I understand the day-to-day work of the local church isn’t particularly glamorous. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem very spiritual. Occasionally, we may question whether or not some of that work even needs to be done. And yet, I keep holding on to a good word from St. Paul that I learned a long, long time ago in Vacation Bible School, “Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9, KJV)