Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Poor potato underground!

The Clergy Cluster of which I am part met with our bishop yesterday in a nearby city. Participating in the meeting and travel would have eaten up five hours, and I wasn't delighted at the prospect. While I respect community building and colleagues, I'm becoming more irritable about the time given up for these gatherings. I enjoy my colleagues most of the time, but really -- I'd rather do the work I'm given to do.

Shortly before we were to depart for yesterday's meeting, the volunteer coordinator at the Agape Cafe (a program that my Chaplaincy sponsors) called to say she was short on volunteers, and desperate for my assistance in preparing the weekly breakfast for about 90 hungry neighbors. Could I please come help chop potatoes and set tables?

Clergy talk or potatoes? I chose potatoes. As the coordinator said when I declined to attend the meeting with the bishop, "So you decided to do ministry instead of talk about it." Sure, some meetings need to happen, but I think that institutions such as the Church spend far more time meeting than can be good for the soul.

Instead of meeting yesterday, I got my hands full of grainy potato skins, heard the satisfying sounds of a bubbling kettle, and talked about music with a man who works as a janitor. While chopping potatoes, a poem from Jack Prelutsky's book Ride a Purple Pelican came to mind:

"Poor potato underground/never gets to look around/never has a chance to see/a butterfly or bumblebee/never sees the sunny skies...what a waste of all those eyes."


Blogger Pippa said...

Wow! I haven't thought about that book in years!

11:44 AM  
Blogger Castanea_d said...

Potatoes or Clergy? I'd pick potatoes every time.

But you (and I, to a lesser extent) cannot do that. Into every life, some Meetings must fall.

I consider the sort of “hands-on” Agape Cafe work that you describe to be the heart and soul of ministry. You do things that need to be done. You act as the “hands” of God (viz. Teresa of Avila).

Fr. S. called it “dog-swatting,” a term from his Yorkshire upbringing that he used to describe his continuing ministry here after a Rector was hired – doing the jobs that were falling through the cracks. By doing the potatoes the other day, I have no doubt that you reminded the Cafe volunteers and guests that you bring and enact . . . well, . . . Agape. Because you wear that collar, you represent Holy Mother Church in a way that we lay folk do not. Most of the collar-wearing folk are too busy going to meetings to do what you did, and display little or no Agape in their day-to-day activity. It would do most of them good to peel a few potatoes.

I just returned to work, needing to do a lot of it, and have spent the morning (until now) responding to e-mails and seeing three more meetings land on my calendar. None of them will improve tonight's choral rehearsals, or Sunday's music, or do anything genuine involving the people with whom I serve.


“Let us lay aside every weight. . . .” (Hebr. 12:1).
It is not easily done.

8:24 AM  

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