Wednesday, October 10, 2007

All Those Extras

This has been one of those weeks where you get to experience all those little "extras" in life. You know, marriage, birth, death, that sort of thing.

Last week we were putting in a new boiler in our Parish House – the old one had outlived its usefulness about ten years ago. As it turned out, they did not finish on time so were still at it when our congregation hosted a big conference on Saturday. They were still at it when I officiated a wedding that afternoon. They took the day off when we had our big Blessing of the Animals service the next day, which ended two hours before a baptism. They were still at it Tuesday (Monday was Columbus Day, of course), when we got news of the death of an old parishioner, and still not finished today when we were planning the funeral. Whether we will have the funeral reception tomorrow amid grease and the smell of heating oil, I don't know.

What I do know is that sometimes you get this sort of week where everything seems to happen at once. Aside from the overwhelmed dumpster, they don't particularly present a problem. But they do make you think.

In a priest's life, there are moments when you get to be with people as they die – and more moments when you sit with their grieving families. There are moments when you walk a couple through the intricacies of a wedding – and the more important labyrinth of being married. There are moments when you try to talk young families out of a baptism that is being approached for the wrong reasons (because the extended family wants it or because they fear the child might go to Hell if he or she dies unbaptized), and, when they come for the right reasons, help them embrace the life of raising their child to follow Christ.

These are the moments, as a fellow priest told me, that no priest ever complains about. They are the reason we became priests – to preach and teach, to share life with others, to bring comfort and challenge when appropriate. It's possible that a lot of folks might not call this work. They might think of real work as doing the books, producing a newsletter, raising money, painting an office – something with tangible results.

But for many of us, being there with folks is huge. It's who we are, and it's necessary. Life is big and can be lonely. It's nice to have someone there who will accompany you on the journey, no questions asked, who will help provide context for life-changing events, who will assure folks that they are not alone – and they are not without purpose.

All those things we did this last weekend – almost a perfect storm of activity for such a small church – they're important. They are the life of the church, and it's nice to be allowed into them. I just hope the boiler will be working for our next extra.