It happened like this one Sunday morning at my brother-in-law’s church in Minnesota:
Someone had taped a bright-yellow sign to the front door, with an apology to those gathering for worship: “Sorry. We weren’t able to find anyone to serve as greeters today. Let yourself in!”
The congregants shrugged, then opened the door, to step into their lobby. But where was the aroma of their usual morning coffee? A yellow sign on the coffee bar had the answer: “Sorry. We were not able to find anyone to serve coffee today.”
Foreheads knotted. Groans rippled through the room.
Congregants trudged into the sanctuary to find one more sign: “Sorry, we were unable to find anyone to serve as ushers. Please take your own bulletin.”
The bulletins — all of them unfolded — were stacked on a table.
No worship band played that morning. The pastor tried fiddling with the lights himself, and he also scurried around the room at offering time — one frazzled man with a basket.
They got the message.
So today, I say thank you to the people of my own church — and to churches everywhere — who make the coffee, take out the trash, turn on the lights, and mow the lawn:
To Art, the man who faithfully rings the bell at 9:30 every Sunday morning at my church.
To Char, who prints (and folds!) our bulletins.
To Rosie, who pours wine into tiny little cups on communion Sundays.
Thank you, to the person who replaced the toilet paper, stuffed the mailboxes, and picked up the Cheerios from the pew where my children sat.
Thank you to all the pastors, who all summer long, even when half the members were gone from the pews, still bent over the Scriptures as fervently and faithfully as they did when the church was packed.
Thank you to the teacher who taught my children the Apostle’s Creed, and to the silent server who cleaned up the Quiet Bags.
Thank you to whoever counted the offering, washed the dish-towels, and locked up the church after Sunday service ended.
Thank you to the person who responded to the security call when I fouled up the security system, unwittingly setting off a series of false alarms after I left the building.
Thank you to the people who bring fresh flowers for the altar, fresh bread for communion, and a fresh word to the sanctuary.
And thank you to those ten men from our tiny church, all of these businessmen and farmers with slicked back hair, all of them wearing ties, who stood up front the other Sunday to sing the Lord’s Prayer. I was the one in the back, with a hand on the sound board and a single tear sliding down my cheek.