What is Ministry?

I came across a member of our church family in a rather narrow and obscure corner of the church recently – she was wielding a large broom and had the usual detritus of Christmas in a heap in front of her. She apologised for blocking my way, I apologised for wanting to walk through her ministrations. It reminded me of an incident in my home church when I was a teenager, still at school. The caretaker had left, and members of the regular congregation were asked if they would help. I vividly remember my mother’s disgust at one devout member of the group who flatly refused to do anything, because she said, she ‘had prayed about it and knew God was not calling her to clean lavatories’!

It reminded me, too, of George Herbert’s poem, sung as a well-loved hymn ‘Teach me my God and King’ The poem is called ‘The Elixir’, which refers to the old superstition that, with the right chemistry – and what was known as ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’, base metal could be turned into gold. George Herbert refers to Christ as the ‘Elixir’ – anything we do for Him and in His name is precious and good, no matter how menial the world may consider it to be.

On an even more practical level, every establishment needs someone who will keep it clean, orderly, and running properly – the person in a church who does this has one of the greatest ministries of all in my view. How sad it is to go into a church which is dusty, dirty, and unloved – it seems to say that God is not worth a little effort at least to keep His church clean.

My mother’s acerbic comment on the lady who was not called to clean lavatories was ‘it’s no good being so heavenly minded that you are no earthly use’ – and I was sent to clean the lavatories! I give thanks daily for my wonderful, sensible mother.

Please read George Herbert’s poem for yourself – and Happy Ministry, perhaps singing the hymn as you go.

[Jo Spray]