Sunday morning arrived. Mary and I drove the forty minutes to the church arriving at my customary time – one hour before worship. I gave her the grand tour of the building as I went around turning on the lights and turning up the heat. She seemed impressed with the building and was even polite about the space in fellowship hall where we would hold worship that day. One thing was not quite right. We noticed that the folding chairs, set up in rows (apparently as Christ, himself, ordained…) were off center. The large cross hanging on the wall was normally at the center of the worship space. On this morning, the chairs were set up way to the left and the cross was not at the head of the isle but rather smack in the middle of the right section of chairs. Mary and I set to work rearranging the furniture.
This was something they didn’t have to do at her home church. The paid, full time sexton arranged the chairs and cleaned. The pastors had minimal responsibilities for the building. The setting was always the same and was always perfect. If something broke- it got fixed quickly by someone who was trained to fix it. Money was not an issue.
On this particular morning, Mary got to experience the glamorous realities of being a small church pastor. When things break – we attempt to fix them. In the past I’ve had the opportunity to learn about plumbing and heating systems. I’ve discovered the best way to sweep up street salt and sand off a wood floor and how to get mouse feces off pew cushions. I’ve had lengthy discussion about the best kind of urinals. I’ve learned that church coffee makers are flirts and will only work correctly for the ones they love and that church photocopiers are temperamental and require a blood sacrifice before they will behave appropriately. It was now time for Mary’s indoctrination into the world of the small church. The toilets in the women’s bathroom clogged. Poor Mary. She came out of the restroom looking slightly confused and a bit anxious.
“Jen? I think the toilet is broken.”
I hustled into the bathroom to look. The water was swirling around dangerously close to the seat. We were moments away from flood stage. I rolled up my sleeves and grabbed the plunger. Mary was right behind me looking over my shoulder, clearly unimpressed with my plumbing diagnosis skills. I plunged harder. Much to my delight, the imminent danger of flooding passed. I felt like Noah must have felt as he watched the great floodwaters recede. We were safe. I turned and gave the plunger to Mary.
“Here you go. The rest of the toilets will need to be plunged now or they’ll flood the next time they get flushed. Thanks.”
I walked out of the bathroom quickly before she could say anything.
That event took place several years ago - at a church that no longer exists. But something made me remember it this week- Mary is now serving a church of her own and just sent me a message about how she had to plunge the toilets before worship yesterday and thought of me. Seems the random Sunday all those years ago really made an impression. You just never know how God will use you on any given day….