In my previous pastorate, the tradition was to keep live plants in the sanctuary. This not only happened on Sundays but often during an entire season as well. This was a wonderful tradition, but as many traditions go, it often fell to the pastor to take care of them. My thumb turned out to be less than green.
One day, a young woman by the name of Salli happened to be in the sanctuary and noticed that many of the plants were getting brown tips on their leaves. She brought that to my attention and said they needed watering more than on Sunday mornings. Normally, I would have translated that to mean, “Preacher, you need to water these plants more often.”
Much to my surprise, however, Salli told me she would take it upon herself to water them on a regular basis. Not only was this a wonderful surprise, I was forever grateful to her. She didn’t live next to the sanctuary. I, on the other hand, not only lived within walking distance, my study (which I frequented on most days) was attached to that same sanctuary. I just wasn’t focused on watering plants, however.
“He had to use actual film…”
In my first parish, there was a man by the name of Jay. He and I shared the same birthday (although he was a good deal older than I). He loved birds and photography. After I arrived and he saw that the parish was becoming more active than it had been, he volunteered to take pictures at the various events. This was back in the days before digital cameras, and he had to use actual film that cost real money. He did much of it at his own expense. A lot of beautiful moments were preserved and shared because of Jay’s faithfulness.
When I arrived at my third parish, there was a man here by the name of Vernon. Vernon mowed the lawn, cleaned the sanctuary, and did anything else that had to be done around the church grounds. He wasn’t part of a paid staff. He just saw physical needs and took care of them. It was part of his ministry to the Lord.
“The Unsung Heroes…”
People like Salli, Jay, and Vernon are the lifeblood of the church. People like them see needs that others don’t see, and they just handle them. They are the unsung heroes of any congregation. People come and go and never realize what it takes to carry out ministry. Seldom do these heroes receive as much as a pat on the back. Even pastors tend to take them for granted.
Salli, Jay, and Vernon have all gone on to be with the Lord. I have no doubt where they are or that I’ll see them again someday. They are saints of God, and they (and others like them) are my inspirations to this day. I’m sure none of them saw themselves as exceptional, but they were all very special to me.
As always, God takes the ordinary and produces something beautiful.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]