This weekend at St. Thomas, I was talking with another member of the altar guild as she was diligently polishing the brass alms basins. She told me the story of how, many years ago, she was trained for altar guild service by a member of our parish who had just died the previous week. As a newer member to the parish myself, I had only ever met that woman in her old age as a resident of a local care facility (and even then, she was lovely and kind). But, as we polished and prepared for the weekly services I was happy to hear stories of her in the prime of her years, filled with spunk and good humor. My altar guild companion remarked, “I’m polishing them extra well for her today.” I had a distinct feeling that those actions of behind-the-scenes polishing were noted far beyond this earthly plane.
I am new to the altar guild here at St. Thomas, so the past few months have been an ongoing training process about which cloth is folded in which way, what pieces are placed in what position, and what polish is used to clean which pieces of silver or brass. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by details to which I had never paid much attention. But, there is more to the service role than that. On Sunday mornings, everyone comes in and things are all in order, ready for the celebration and Eucharistic feast in which we are about to partake. For years…decades…over a century for this parish…it has been a diligent group of people who volunteer their time behind the scenes each and every week to insure that the silver sparkles, the brass gleams, there are beautiful flowers arranged in the church and the altar is set and ready for each service. When we worship together, the ripples of that service are felt by all.
We appreciate service, and it restores our faith in humanity when we see acts of kindness and service. Sometimes it is the most overlooked, thankless tasks where service is the most needed and most appreciated. There are not lofty accolades for scrubbing sinks, or working to remove stains from vintage linens. There is simply work that needs to be done, and many hands that are often willing to step in and perform that work without receiving much notice or praise. When we take time to notice this service, it has a profound effect on us. I came across this article this week which also notes the powerful psychological benefits of witnessing acts of kindness. We become stronger people by seeing…truly taking to heart…the ways in which we serve one another.
Elation: The Amazing Effect of Witnessing Acts of Kindness
(reference URL: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-darkness/201311/elation-the-amazing-effect-witnessing-acts-kindness-0)
Opportunities to Serve:
1) At St. Thomas: Consider taking one hour to do some unrecognized, behind-the-scenes service at our parish. Some tasks that are not regularly assigned to people: scrubbing the kitchen stove (which is used to serve so many every week!); cleaning and washing out the double refrigerator in the kitchen; washing the pile of table linens and towels which accumulate in the kitchen; washing choir robes; grounds-keeping the common areas for twigs, trash, and weeds; helping fold bulletins during holy week for many scheduled services. Even a few minutes of behind-the-scenes help in these tasks (and others you might think of) is always appreciated.
2) Wherever you are: Spend a hour cleaning up trash in a public space; volunteer for spring clean-up at local schools, churches, or community centers; use a talent or skill to paint, “spruce up” or beautify an area of your community.
Think of the ripples of love and service that your acts of kindness will create. Think of those ripples as God’s movement through the world.
As we like to say at St. Thomas (but important wherever you are):