It's been a not-so-quiet couple of weeks this mid-June at our congregation. We've had 70-odd children or so roaming the classrooms, the hallways, and the outside lawn for our annual Vacation Bible School Program. I got to spend a little time in the pre-school classroom last week, helping with crafts and doing a little singing.
But this has not been my biggest challenge so far.
My biggest challenge has been my daily cameo appearance in the "opening skit", where the theme of the day is introduced. I have a costume to semi-disguise myself, which includes a straw hat, a pair of odd shoes, jeans and a flannel shirt, and funny glasses. I carry with me some different crazy props every day, including gummy worms and "skunk spray", for example. I play a pretty clueless and mildly funny character named "Skeeter". So every day has included a costume change back and forth from my official work garb, to my "Skeeter" outfit, and back again.
Today was the most challenging day so far. I had an early morning Matins service, and later a committal service at a local cemetery. I came in early in the morning, dressed in my clerics, presided over the service, and changed into the "Skeeter" costume shortly afterward. Then, shortly after my cameo performance of the day, I changed back into my clerics to get ready for the funeral service. The near-ninety-degree weather also contributed to the fun.
I felt a little like a quick-change artist.
Later on I ended up at the hospital, meeting the one-day-old daughter of our youth director and his wife. A little later I was organizing a booth for our church's carnival tomorrow night. And a little after that I was meeting with two parish members and two members of our local school board, talking about our racially and culturally diverse district, and how to serve its children faithfully.
I didn't change clothes, but I still felt a little like a quick-change artist.
It's both the challenge and the blessing of my work: to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep, to laugh with those who laugh -- and sometimes all on the same day.
I have the privilege of holding the hand of a dying woman, and letting a new-born baby grab my hand, to hear the laughter and insights of children, the fears and doubts of parents, the questions of teenagers.
I bet that in those lists that they give potential pastors, the ones with words like "leader", "shepherd", "social change agent" on them, they never have the words "quick change artist". It's too bad, because sometimes I think it's a more apt description for what we do.
I'm a quick-change artist, and here's the artistry, I hope: in the quickly changing winds of the days that come to me, and in the lives that intersect with mine, to discern the Voice of God -- and to speak the Word as well.