Ministry

In the Still of the Night

In the still of the night, I am sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of hot chocolate in a mug that asks a certain question about the effect of preaching on the appearance of one’s derriere.

One cat has taken advantage of this opportunity to request a saucer of cream. She has gone outside into the darkness, followed by her sister in paws.

The dogs lifted their heads when I came down the stairs, but now I hear only the occasional sleepy snuffle from the living room, where they have stationed themselves at opposite ends of the oriental rug. When I was a little girl I used to observe the pattern on that rug. There are birds at various intervals, and other interesting shape repeats. The colors include a warm red, a deep salmon, an elegant navy and a softer blue as well. Of course you cannot see them in the dark, just the white blazes on the foreheads of the dogs, lit by the spill from the upstairs hall light.

I woke some time ago and could not go back to sleep. “Too anxious to sleep”—my own words come back to me in the night. There is so much to do, and it is not the consumerist shopping frenzy I critique that has me on this ragged edge, but rather all that must be done in the life of Small Church between now and December 25th at 11 a.m.

Do I have enough wrist and thumb power to finish sweaters and write Christmas cards?

Do I have enough energy to organize readers and pageant participants?

Will it all come together in the end?

(Note to self: it usually does. But what is the cost to my raggedy-feeling self?)

Much of my worry about church has to do with a particular group that hasn’t met to do its work with any effectiveness this year. Their job is falling on me, and I resent having to do it, and therefore have not done it. This means when the first snow falls, we won’t be plowed. Rev Fun’s church will continue to be unhappy that we don’t have floodlights on the sign out front, thereby making it harder for new folks to find them for a 5 p.m. service in the winter months. The seam between the bell tower and the sanctuary roof will continue to leak when we have heavy rains.

It’s hard to call people to account when they won’t meet. 2 out of 6 showed up for their last meeting. I had to walk around at Coffee Hour and gather up members of the Church Council in order to have a quorum of some group empowered to spend money to get involved in making these plans. Even then, all they did was turf most of the tasks to me. And the lay person who seemed to be taking on two of them referred them back to me as well.

Meanwhile, I was the one interviewing potential tenants for the parsonage and checking their references. And I did follow through on the things that had been “mine” in the first place. But the plowing—still not settled. The electrician didn’t call me back until today. And still ahead of me is a conversation with the city Parks and Recreation director, whose employees park in our lot during the week and also during snow emergencies. I put her card in my pocket and forgot it and didn’t make the call, because I had so many other things happening, including several denominational or community commitments.

My sermon is about half-written.

Tomorrow, or really today, I have to pick up a Christmas tree for the Sanctuary. We ran out of daylight for that task today. I haven’t come close to taking a day off this week. I’m tired and tightly wound.

I have a worry with a colleague friend, but I can’t write about it here except to say that when The Princess comes to me with playground dramas, I understand very well how she is feeling.

In the still of the night, my heart and mind are busy, troubled, unsoothed by either prayer or warm milk.

13 thoughts on “In the Still of the Night”

  1. Oh…big hugs, Songbird. I’m sitting here trying to write tomorrow’s sermon, but with an impossible list of other church things whirling around in my head, and a deep and terrible conviction that, yes, this really is a sore throat and I will definitely have a cold by tomorrow…which will probably lead to my having no voice during the coming week,when I’ve alot of singing to do…and….and…
    Shall we make a “don’t panic” pact?…I won’t,if you don’t. I guess it will all happen somehow or other, and people may even find God in bits of it…I’m sure He’ll be there,if we can only manage to focus for half a second.
    More hugs xx

  2. Is there room in the pact for a third? This %^&* root canal has put me hopelessly behind, with the pain, and the drugs, and I’m only half-way there. I have the whole process finished on Monday, which likely means more pain, and more drugs.
    And yet my list is no shorter than it was last week. And the cherry on the cake–absolutely not one word of a sermon done yet. And it is 8:23 am on Saturday where I am right now. Plus I really must get to the post office and mail Lorna her magnet. Why should she be punished for my ineffectiveness?
    Just somebody tell me to breathe…

  3. Hugs, Songbird. I know end of term stress, but it doesn’t parallel all the broad things you’re shepherding, whether or not the shepherding is your job or someone else’s. It makes me think about the way we think about Advent: the winter cold, the stillness, the candles, tiny in comparison, and the way that we try to focus to see the light shining in the darkness. I can see you, sort of, with your mug, finding that, and contemplating it.
    But normally, in the books where the light and the dark square off, it’s an epic clash. Heck of a lot of work going into the lighting of that candle. And all that work is paralleled in all the things that priests, organists, choirmasters, wardens, etc., do to make the holiday and advent season even happen. The calmness of the candle lighting is bought with a sacrifice. We can think about that in terms of the scripture readings, but forget the more modern sacrifices that reflect it, however subtly. The calm that we’re asked to bring to Advent even seems to *ask* us to forget it. I don’t know why, really, though I know there are reasons. But I’m glad that you reminded me of all that goes into it. And I thought this post was lovely.
    And, p.s., not that you have more time, but there’s this book by Susan Cooper called “The Dark Is Rising,” that you might appreciate. It’s not too long.

  4. Oh, yes, you MUST read The Dark is Rising…it’s nearly my favourite book, and an essential part of Advent/Christmas is the Curate’s house. I’m sure you’d enjoy it 🙂
    I loved Jane’s thoughts that the calm of candlelight is bought at a price…really very helpful.
    And I’ve almost done half a sermon (thank God for Dylan and desperate preacher, who got me started) so the no panic pact really does help!
    Back to the grindstone now xx

  5. While not as in the same dire straits you seem to be, I often wonder . . . I have a jr. warden who hasn’t been to a vestry meeting in nearly a year, the leaves never did get raked and are now buried under a foot of snow, and getting people to return pledge cards is like pulling teeth without novacaine. It’s like people think that the collar comes with powerful magic that causes things to be done with a snap of the finger. At least I’m healthy again.
    Prayers for a Advent as it should be.

  6. Jane Dark, reading is the blood transfusion to writing’s oxygen. I think #1 Son had some of the Cooper books and I will look for them upstairs.
    Rev Ref, glad to hear you’re feeling better! At least we’re not covered in snow…yet.
    Friends, the sermon is still not written, but I had a nap, and the tree is up at church. Now if we could just find the darned dowels for hanging up the Advent banners…

  7. Blessings with everything you have to do.
    It’s hard and unfair when layfolks who are empowered to do certain things let them drop, because then the clergy (with whom “the buck stops”) deal with the consequences and/or face the blame.
    Anyway, a big hug. Glad you had a nap. Sleep deprivation makes everything seem worse…

  8. I’m sorry the laity are being slackers. *sigh*
    Although I am not a rev, I do run an organization that relies on volunteers. I’ve learned to 1) keep an e-mail list so I can e-mail and BEG for help (it works); and 2) use the phrase “I need your help” often.
    But it would be nice to have more folks around who LOOK for things to be done–and then DO them. Those folks are a rare gift.

  9. Deep breath!
    Songbird thank you for coming over to my site and for your encouraging comment in spite of all my whining! (which could have been like a red flag to a bull, but you chose to respond so graciously!)
    As a member of our church with one foot between clergy and layity, I’m really really struggling with where I fit in anyway, yet God vividly reminded me today that all I need to be is the part of the body of Christ He’s asked me to be. To do what He lays on my heart(including admitting I was wrong) and to stop judging what others do / don’t do, give / don’t give.
    Our church is in bad shape. Only one intercessor showed up to pray for people today. I stepped in. It meant I also had to help with the collection as ushering is part of the intercessor’s duties.
    There were 35-40 people in our service today(which isn’t bad for independence day weekend) but NO-ONE was ready to make the church coffee. I ending up doing that too (along with the treasurer who preached) and actually it was fun and I was happy to do so, but I had to leave at 1pm sharp, and I’ve no idea who blew out the candles, washed the coffee cups, or locked the church door!
    Our pastor was elsewhere and it wasn’t obvious if he’d delegated it to someone or not.
    No-one has volunteered to help at the church Christmas party next weekend, and it wasn’t even announced today. It’s a potluck affair, but unless people are told, they’ll arrive for the service as usual at 11am, to find empty tables and some elevator-type Christmas music in the background. If there are tables set up and anyone’s even brought a CD!
    Sigh.
    This come at a point when I’m struggling to find where I should say YES and where NO. I’m pretty good at following though my YESes I’m also good at seeing needs and just getting on with it – so I think part of my NO yesterday was my attitude, and God clearly convicted me of that.
    But there HAS to be a better way of mobilising the body of Christ. There has to be!
    (sorry Songbird, this has all just spilt out in your blog. This post really opened my eyes to the other side of it and I am grateful to that. Thank you)
    breath again!

  10. Hugs from Oklahoma and another referral for the Dark is Rising (which, in fact, I just recently reread, along with Greenwitch.)
    Hmm, maybe the next Cooper book on this chilly evening. And some hot chocolate.

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