5th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
Transfiguration Sunday, Year C

Who Is Called to Do the Laundry?

While we're on the subject of Call (thank, Matt and Laura, thanks lectionary and thanks Kittamaqundi Community for never letting this topic drop) I'd like to raise a question which has been on my mind for years:  Who is called to do the laundry?

And not just the laundry.  Who is called to do all the mundane, scut work of the world.  You know, collecting garbage and cleaning the bathtub and proof-reading the latest version of the church directory?  I know that I'm not called to do these things.  But is anyone?

There is a conversation that happens at churches with great frequency which goes like this:  "We need to fill four more slots on the Christian Education committee.  Let's think of all the people who aren't already on a committee who are free on Tuesday nights."  Then, someone in the conversation responds, "Shouldn't the people on the Christian Education committee be called to that work?  We need more people to feel a call to serve our youth!"

Which is the more "spiritual" response?  The second comment certainly sounds more spiritual--it uses the word "call" after all.  But is it really true that God arranges our communities in such ways that there is a person in the community who is really, truly called to each essential task?  I would certainly like to believe this.  I would really like to think that there is someone genuinely called to do all the work I don't feel like doing.  But are they?

In my experience, this is how a great deal of the work of running a church gets divvied up:  The church cultivates a clear expectation that everyone will take their turn to pitch in and do their share of the work.  People either understand this and therefore volunteer when it seems like "their turn" or they don't don't understand this and are therefore asked quite directly to take a turn.

Is taking your turn, doing your share, acting out of a sense of duty distinctly different from following a divine call? 

A couple of weekends ago, the 2010 Church Council spent Sunday afternoon together, our annual team-building retreat.  Rick Miller led us in an exercise in which we all drew a picture describing our "call" to serve on the Council.  I was struck by the answer so many of us gave: "I love our church, and I realize that a lot of people have put their time into running it, and I feel called to take my turn and do my share of the work." 

People didn't say they felt called to administrative work.  They said they were willing to do administrative work because they felt called to be part of a community.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I agree that there are all sorts of ways to be Called.  God doesn't just need ordained ministers and missionaries.  God needs every one of us to build the Kingdom, in small and big ways.  Last night my neighbor told me about her bus driver, Mr. Mike, who has touched her deeply with the caring and attentive way in which he does his work.  "He really is like Jesus," she told me.  "He shepherds us with such love."

But maybe the issue is not that we haven't valued calls to small acts of caring and inglorious jobs enough.  Maybe the issue is that we have imagined calls to be much more specific and defined than they really are.  God may not call each person to a specific job--big, little or in between.  Rather, God has work to do in the world, and invites us to join in, however we can on any given day.  "Pitching in" may be as worthy a response to the invitation as any.


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Nan Powell

This is so right on, Heather. In the early years we had something called PYGMY which meant "Prepare Ye Gods Mansion Yourself".

We took turns doing the scut work and found it a good way to build Community.

Bonnie Orrison

I'm not much into public comment through blogging, but I do feel 'called' to support this idea of doing church. Thanks, Heather, for suggesting it. Yeah, the 'call' to take my turn, or to respond to something needing done, fits better as to why I do much of what I do at KC - rather than that I am being called to do a specific mission. Luckily, Dave is 'called' to do the family laundry today while I'm tending to KC 'laundry.'

Laura Lesche

I find it interesting that our call doesn't always match our known abilities. Like Moses, who didn't have the gift of speaking in public, was called to lead thousands out of slavery. Do we underestimate ourselves in hearing our own call? Do we engage in "selective hearing"? In being part of the church community, do we overlook the smaller and the bigger jobs to settle for the "happy medium"? I'm trying to figure this out myself. Right now I'm reading "The Alchemist", and there seems to be a lot in there about seeking after one's personal calling.

Randy Malm

In my time at KC I have had both outward calls (Habitat/Haiti, Habitat/Baltimore, Rosewood, Agape House, Homeless and others) and inward (toward KC) calls (Council service mostly and some building-related). The outward calls had more of an oh-gosh-I-really-need-to-do-this feel than the inward calls, although KC Treasurer had the most 'ogirntdt' of the KC calls. Treasurer is definitely in the ‘laundry’ category and I know that the people who have been KC Treasurer all seemed to be ‘called’ to do it. As Laura suggested, some of these calls were far from my field of experience. Each of the calls I have experienced, however, have resulted in personal growth of one kind or another, none of which I expected.

Chris Beyer

Hmm. In my neighborhood a lot of us were out at the same time today and even though we were mostly working on our own little pieces of the sidewalk and our own parking spaces, there was a sense of community - a shared endeavor. I ended up shoveling my next door neighbor's car out. I didn't want to do it but found myself doing it anyway. But I guess I must have wanted to do it, because I did it. Was I "called" to do it?

Later, after a shower and a beer I saw one of my other neighbors, who decided to attack his snow drift a bit later than the rest of us. He was really struggling. I considered going out to help him, but I didn't. I guess there wasn't any call that time.

I sometimes wonder about the whole 'call' thing. Sometimes I think that a specific call is heard because of specific and unique circumstances in a person's life at that time. I think God's call is pretty generic - he doesn't care whether we build shelters or treat lepers or help old ladies cross the street. Those are just our individual responses to the same call he give everyone.

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