In American culture, Memorial Day usually signals a different routine. Not just more activities outdoors, but a little less intensity indoors … in the workplace, and in church as well. For a church board, so much of the year is taken up with tasks that you know in advance: budgets, personnel reviews, planning, recruiting, stewardship emphasis. This list of board chores is plain and predictable, its contents familiar.
Chores matter. As Seth Godin has observed, chores are essential, repeatable, proven, and low risk. A board that ignores necessary chores will find itself on the congregational “hot seat,” facing guaranteed complaint from fellow church members. But a board that spends all its time on chores will miss opportunities for growth and wonder. Congregations need wonder as much as they need proficiency. And faith communities have never needed wonder more than now!
The truth is that if we stop doing chores, we have to do real work instead. The things that aren’t repeatable or proven. The things that are emotionally difficult, creatively challenging or simply requiring exploration and guts to pursue.… Doing chores cheerfully and with skill is a fine hobby. But it might not be what you need to do right now.
With God’s help, after all we have lived through in the last three years, every church board is ready for some emotionally difficult, creatively challenging engagement. That is where the real work is!
In “Naming the Waves,” Vermont poet Allison Prine studies a harbor.
Naming The Waves
by Alison Prine
Above the harbor these clouds refuse to be described
except in the language with which they describe themselves.
I stand here in the morning stillness.
Which is of course not a stillness,
the sky spreading open in the East with amber light
while drifting away to the West.
Here I can sense how the world
spins us precisely in its undetectable turn
somehow both towards and away.
The blue of the harbor holds
the sky in its calm gaze.
This is a love poem, be patient.
Between you and me nothing leaves
I will name for you each wave rolling up on the harbor sand:
this is the first breath of sleep
this the cloth of your mother’s dress
this the cadence of our long conversation
I want to show you how everything
on this harbor has been broken;
shells, glass, rust, bones and rock—
Crushed into this expanse of glittering sand,
immune to ruin, now rocking
in the slow exhale of the tide.
For sure, take some time off from your chores this summer. Relax. Distract. But when your board gathers, see what you can do to shape your time together differently, creatively, with a sense of wonder. We think you will find this “real work” full of adventure.
What is summer for, in your own life? What do you do differently in this special season?
What is summer for, in the life of your church? How does your church board balance its usual chores with something else?
In what sense is Allison Prine’s poem a love poem?
How can a beach in which everything “has been broken” be “immune to ruin?”
How can you, as a board, explore the broken world with wonder this summer? What might you find yourselves able to name and to discover?