Our culture has a tendency of honoring the glamorous achievers while bypassing work that is done silently and behind the scenes. On Palm Sunday, we took a chance to reverse that trend, and it turned out to be a great celebration! Bruce Bothwell had served at least a decade and a half in our church as deacon and usher and was looking forward to a well-deserved rest. We took the end of his term as an opportunity to celebrate his service with a nice coffee hour in his honor. Ellen Hamilton had baked the cake, and Bruce Hamilton had decorated it.
You know, it is no easy thing to be a faithful deacon and usher, as far as worship duties are concerned. Bruce was here for all these years, Sunday after Sunday, not at 9:30a.m. or 9:45a.m., but always punctually at 9:00a.m. He helped the corresponding deacon of the month, organized substitute deacons or ushers when there was a shortage, and was a reliable whistle blower when there was a mistake in the bulletin – like a hymn number from the red hymn book wrongly ascribed to a hymn in the green book. More than once he prevented potential calamities!
However, a retirement, temporary or not, is an important thing, because it enables other deacons and ushers to grow into the responsibilities. I realize this sounds a little bit like work. But there is enjoyment as well when we gather prior to worship and find ourselves surrounded by the sounds of the church coming to life: coffee brewing in the kitchen, the choir rehearsing, and happy bantering in Fellowship Hall.
Then we do what has been done for centuries: We cut the candles, mark the readings, change the liturgical colors and put up the hymns. All over the world, the sounds and actions are similar, at least in principle. Preparing for worship – it is clearly a constant within the story of our faith. What could be more rewarding spiritually than the feeling to be part of it, and to have a place in a line of succession that spans the centuries?
Truly, the hour before worship has special grace!