I didn’t want to be our church’s bulletin editor, ignoring for months the repeated pleas, and even urgent prayers from the pulpit, for someone to step forward. Shame on me. I had my reasons, I thought. I’d recently retired from teaching only to be recruited for painting at our church, drama and art workshops, committee work, judging science fairs and writing contests and more. In my journal I groused, “I feel like I’m in the same place I was when I was working, for crying out loud, pulled in a hundred directions…. I want to pray that someone will step up and do the bulletin, so I don’t have to. But, Lord, I’ll do it if somehow you make it clear to me that that’s what I should do.” (Thus, take note. Here follows a cautionary tale. If, like Gideon and me, you say you want a sign, God will take you at your word). An elder asked me point-blank to be the bulletin editor, just temporarily. I ended up doing it for three and a half years.
There’s a moral here, or maybe several. Sheepishly, I discovered I liked doing the work. I could do it on my own time, at home. Everyone was so appreciative! I felt the love as a bulletin editor far more than I ever did as a catechism teacher. (That’s a cautionary tale for another time.) Doing such a “visible” task also spared me from sundry other jobs.
I found that God could be served in the details, even mundane clerical details. As I began fleshing out that revelation, it brought surprising satisfaction. I could enhance announcements, crafting phrases to build community. Abrupt reminders about meetings on scraps of paper or curt messages left on my answering machine could be gentled to be more welcoming and gracious. Inserting a few extra “please and thank yous” gave the bulletin a more courteous tone. The “congregation” became “our church family.” A note from the deacons became a note from “your” deacons, reminding us that their diaconal work is done on our behalf. Some announcements simply needed a smiley face. Some needed to be revised for inclusivity. Who can say if these tiny edits contributed anything at all to enrich our church’s fellowship? But I like to think so. I like to think that our God is so big that even the most minute details, offered in his service, find their place in the coming of the kingdom.
I took photos of our church family, adding them to the bulletin under the heading Around God’s House. Random shots of Sunday school kids with palm branches, teens slouched in the front lobby, and old guys peeling potatoes served to put a face on the “communion of the saints.” I wanted to show the congregation to itself: see how diverse you are, see your service to one another, see how lovely you are dwelling together in God’s house!
But it wasn’t just what I was doing to the bulletin, it was what the bulletin was doing to me. Putting it together on Thursday drew Sunday closer, the sermon titles, hymn numbers and upcoming sacraments inhabiting the forefront of my consciousness, calling like “silver trumpets” to “holy convocations” as the old hymn has it. The church was getting “in my face” with cheek-pinching affection, like a doting mom or grandma, brooking no resistance.
I began to pray more often, spontaneously, for my church. I found myself loving the people of my church with uncommon tenderness. Week after week I typed the names of brothers and sisters in the Lord needing prayer in their struggles – illnesses, sorrows, losses. Week after week I typed the names of those same brothers and sisters praising God for his mercies, “new every morning,” – healings and recoveries, weddings and anniversaries, the birth of children and grandchildren. I typed the names of members celebrating birthdays in the upcoming week. I logged dozens of emails weekly from the pastor, the clerk, the deacons, the head counsellors of GEMS and Cadets, the leaders of Coffee Break and VBS. Week after week I saw God dot-matrixed, duplicated and folded 150 times. God – all over every bulletin.
When I put the weekly CRC-Newsletter into the mail slots, again, I would find myself praying, moved by the sheer number of denominational ministries and events streaming live to my local church from everywhere. All those missionaries and pastors and laypeople proclaiming and conferencing and teaching and learning! All that money raised by the CRWRC for Haiti and Japan! A bi-national church, a global presence! And, in the basement of the Wyoming CRC, the Holy Spirit breathing renewed servanthood into my depleted grudging spirit, refilling my empty wineskin as I photocopied and stuffed mail slots in my own dry and thirsty little corner.
Say it with me: I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God….