For The Someday Book

All in a Day’s Work

Posted on: January 27, 2011

This post could also be titled, “Things They Don’t Teach You in Seminary,” or “What Ministers Really Do.”

A saddle, similar to the one we used.

We had a boiler pipe leak on Sunday at church. When I arrived first thing, steam was gushing out everywhere and there was a giant puddle of water on the floor. I turned off the boiler, and thankfully the building was warm enough to get us through worship. After the service, a valiant church member applied a device called a “saddle” to cover the hole, so that we could have heat again. I assisted with light mopping, tool-fetching and clean-up duties.

The saddle fixed the hole 100%. However, it did nothing to fix the second hole we discovered three feet farther down the pipe. We did not have another saddle on hand to apply. The device was not available at retail stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, so we shut the boiler off and waited until Plumber’s Supply opened the next morning.

Monday morning, I dropped my son off at school, and got a call from the church secretary. “It’s cold in here!” she said. I got on the phone, and a second valiant church member was available to  install the second saddle, with technical support available by phone from the first. Since Plumber’s Supply was not too far from my son’s school, it was only natural for me to run that errand.

Which one of these things does not belong?

So, at 9:03 a.m., I pulled my little Kia up in front of Plumber’s Supply, amid a long line of professional plumbers’ work trucks. I immediately realized I was way out of my league. That realization grew deeper when I stepped out onto the sidewalk and realized that the block-long building had four different entrances, each one for a different department. All I knew was that I needed a 2″ saddle for a boiler pipe—and there was no door that said that.

I picked the closest one, and was directed down the warehouse hall to the department I needed. Since it was Monday morning, the place was busy, with several sales representatives seated behind desks and half-a-dozen contractors waiting around to order supplies. I joined the crowd standing around waiting, looking and feeling completely out of place. They were dressed for a normal day’s work—jeans, jackets, boots, tool belts. I was also dressed for a normal day’s work—skirt, blouse, pumps, scarf.

Everyone treated me with the utmost kindness, and guided me through the order, pick-up, cashier process. I emerged 20 minutes later having paid a mere $27 for the 2″ saddle that would enable us to restore heat to the church, and hopefully keep our old boiler running for the rest of the season. (We are in the midst of a capital campaign to replace it by next winter.)

In the life of a solo pastor of a small church, there is no “normal day’s work.” This was my first time at a supply store for professional plumbers, but it was far from the first time my work for the church had taken me to different, unusual places that most people do not get to see. Every day is different, and you never know what to expect. There will be days that involve fixing boilers or repairing copy machines or fighting floods in the basement. There will also be days when you make a pastoral call at the bar of the American Legion, or hold a burial service for someone’s beloved cat, or make homemade sausage, or relearn papier-mache, or rent vans, or march in a parade, or research labor laws, or attend a fancy fundraising dinner with a celebrity speaker. It’s all in a day’s work.

And that’s what makes ministry so grand. Especially since there are valiant church members—who also are not plumbers or boiler technicians—engaged in the mutual effort to keep God’s church up and running, serving the community and spreading the gospel in whatever ways possible.

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1 Response to "All in a Day’s Work"

Do you know, I just did my first cat funeral a couple of weeks ago. So very sad, and so very affirming.

Now, I have to call our plumber, because our boiler issue has not been resolved.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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