Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
I want to salute those silent and often unseen sisters and brothers who have the call of being a church janitor. The position may have a different name where you are, but the functions are the same.
It does not matter whether your congregation’s calendar is filled with daily programs and activities in your building or the space is used just a few times during the week. Someone, paid or volunteers, keeps it clean.
I admit that I am highly prejudiced about this particular ministry. It is how I worked my way through seminary. Some friends and I kept a church building that housed a daycare and many community activities decent and in order. Somewhere along the way, I became an avid reader of “Hints from Heloise,” a regular column about cleaning tips.
My friends and I got into trouble only once when we polished the organ bench too much, causing the organist to almost slide off onto the floor. The greatest challenge I recall came after a blizzard when I had to shovel six feet of snow off the steps and sidewalks.
I found a great benefit to this call: the amount of time spent in the silence of sacred spaces. The only sounds were of my own breath and whatever cleaning tool was at hand.
In this position, one becomes aware of the way the space functions in the life of the congregation. The celebrations of the seasons, the baptisms, the weddings, and the bittersweet praise of a life ended linger in the air. Of course, evidence is left behind – notes, candy mints half eaten, and candle wax. All of these aspects tell the stories of real people gathered to experience the ancient and fresh story of God.
Perhaps you never see the person who cleans your church building. If not, look up that individual, because he or she is about a sacred task. I hope you thank them and maybe shake their blessed hand.