I’d Rather Mop My Church Than Go Home

Every Saturday afternoon our church gymnasium transformed from a basketball court or hockey “rink” into a sanctuary. In fact, our church was little more than a gymnasium with a maroon floor and a few offices with thin carpets around it. If our church youth group was in charge of church set up in the afternoon, we’d sometimes play hockey in the morning, go out for lunch (Wawa hoagies were my personal favorite), and return to help with the set up.

However, some Saturday afternoons I joined adult home groups and Sunday school groups at church as they hauled out racks of chairs manhandled the wooden platform into place. I gravitated to the large wet mops that followed the dust mops along the floor, leaving a smooth, shining surface before we did the heavy lifting with the chairs and section dividers.

church seats-yahI’d also tag along with the church janitor if he ever needed a hand. I’d become so accustomed to helping out that when he went away on vacation, he hired me to take over for him. I brought along two friends who split the pay but made the work go much faster. This earned me a key to the church while still in high school.

There’s no denying that I like a tidy space. I like things in their place. I’m that person who rearranges the dishwasher with the big plates in the back, small plates in the front, bowls in the top center, and glasses on top sides. I’m the sweeper and the arranger of stuff in our home for sure, and I embrace that role. That isn’t all of it.

My high school years were tumultuous and divisive. Life at home was full of highs and lows. I didn’t just find friends or community at this Baptist church down the road from our house. I found a peaceful sanctuary. I wonder if I instinctively knew that I could relax in my church. It didn’t matter if I was listening to a sermon, playing hockey, or mopping the floor.

Looking back, I can see that I needed a place to be at rest, and when it feels like a divorce is tearing everything at home to pieces, it can be quite restful to set up a gym with 400 chairs in a semi-circle with a group of friends—or strangers. It doesn’t really matter. For some reason there’s nothing like walking into a dusty, chaotic gym and turning it into a clean, orderly space with carefully arranged rows of chairs and a backdrop of fake plants.

Mind you, I wouldn’t have complained if my church had sped up its transition into more contemporary music. In retrospect, the most relevant and relatable aspect of my church was the way I always felt welcome and at home. I’m sure our janitor could have worked a little faster without me tagging along, and I’m sure those set up crews didn’t need me to mop or set up chairs.

They didn’t need me, but they always welcomed me.

I just had to show up ready to use a mop or a move a few chairs.

I’ve read a lot about children who have parents go through a divorce and how they need an anchor. They need a stable place or relationships where they can feel a sense of peace and stability. For me, it was my church. My church was far from perfect, but for a season when I needed an anchor, it provided one when I needed it the most.

*****

Ed bio YAH

8 Thoughts.

  1. Love this, Ed. I found myself at church all hours of the week as a teenager too. The most surreal memory is the year I spent laying out the orchestra sheet music. I know nothing about music – but there I was, every week, laying the music. I needed that space to be for sure.

  2. I love this story, Ed. As a young girl, church was my anchor when circumstances at home were difficult. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Ed, your story highlights such an important part of church: working together. I think many churches today assume things like “people are too busy” and “teens avoid work at all costs.” They also have large enough budgets to hire out all the work that needs to be done. As a result, church communities are missing out on great opportunities for relationship-building and connection (as well as making people of all ages and abilities feel valued and invested).

    • There’s definitely something about doing hands on tasks with folks that helps build community. Which reminds me I need to email you about Renew and Refine nuts and bolts so we can put the attendees to work… 😉

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