Church on Sunday

January 13, 2004 | 3 comments
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We meet in a city structure six stories high which has been home to eight units, manageable when we had two chapels. When a temple using all of the fifth and sixth floors and parts of the first and second floors began to take shape in the building, chaos ensued. The three single wards met together (stake conf. every Sunday) and a family ward, a Spanish branch, and a deaf unit began to meet together, every space used at all hours. A new and different church with many things going on that never used to. For me, the transformation is that my jobs are now off the books.

We meet in a city structure six stories high which has been home to eight units, manageable when we had two chapels. When a temple using all of the fifth and sixth floors and parts of the first and second floors began to take shape in the building, chaos ensued. The three single wards met together (stake conf. every Sunday) and a family ward, a Spanish branch, and a deaf unit began to meet together, every space used at all hours. A new and different church with many things going on that never used to. For me, the transformation is that my jobs are now off the books.

Gone are routine assignments in the SS, the RS, and what was called the MIA. When I was plucked from the Stake RS to do “special assignments,” I realized that I was leaving a job at which I could not fail to take one where I could not succeed. But that’s OK, because the rules are different. Instead of the previously required perfection, we get credit for every tiny achievement. Now no one keeps track of my attendance because I could be anywhere. Now I get to try to deal with city bureaucracies, captains of industry, local agencies. (Scary) Now I value the personal confrontations when people tell me that the Church is not welcome, that our founder was “an embarrassment” (thank Bagley, Denton, Krakauer), when we are compared to the KKK. This is the real work at the boundaries of LDS culture, facing the abyss that divides us from the rest of the world, an abyss that we try to bridge.

Because of the “crisis of professionalism” in the Church, because we are all trained up to believe that everyone can do anything, I have many unique opportunities. I get to deal with the installation of a plaque honoring the embarkation of the Ship Brooklyn carrying our own NYC pioneers in 1846. I get to chair the Harlem Bridge Building committee. I get to work with the history committee, an ad hoc, unofficial body which once included Taylor Petry and now includes Kristine’s cousin Sara. I got to produce a concert in Carnegie Hall, and for a while there it looked as if I would get to produce the Temple Extravaganza in Giants Stadium. But that event has been downsized, perhaps to nonexistence. I wish everyone had these rewarding opportunities to work at the edges. Let’s encourage the church’s immense resources of good will, energy, and enthusiasm rather than stifling them.

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3 Responses to Church on Sunday

  1. Kaimi on January 13, 2004 at 2:36 pm

    It’s always interesting to read about non-traditional church assignments.

    My favorite story about non-traditional assignments was told by my old boss. Prior to his mission, he was a basketball player at the junior college level. He was called to Taiwan, where for cultural reasons the missionaries had had problems for years in finding men to baptize (apparently it was very difficult to get Taiwanese men to speak to strangers). Along with my boss, a number of other elders with some basketball experience were called to the same place at the same time. The the mission president set up a basketball team. They would play other local teams, drawing good-sized crowds, while their companions tracted the audience — “How would you like to meet this player and have a one-hour conversation with him?” It was a very effective technique.

  2. bemusedreader on January 13, 2004 at 2:54 pm

    My observations suggest that those who treat their callings as “non-traditional”—whatever the calling may be—are the ones who wind-up doing the most good and having the best experience. For example: the home teacher who actually visits more than the required amount, and who actually cares; the primary teacher who really wants to teach, rather than present a quick lesson; the Relief Society president who decides her time would be better spent ministering than planning fancy home-making dinners.

  3. cooper on January 13, 2004 at 11:45 pm

    I love the fact the we are members, and non-paid volunteers, for one of the largest charitable organizations in the world. Where else can one gain such great experience and meet so many interesting people? Rarely does the average American really get an audience with their cities mayor or other people of influence in for-profit or non-profit circles. It is amazing what you can do when you know how to plan “any” event for over three hundred people. It’s a great resume builder.

    And Kaimi, my brother had the same kind of experience in Australia. They weren’t having any success setting up meetings with people in their area. The mission pres approved the formation of a “band” of missionaries to do street meetings and gatherings featuring guitar toting and piano playing elders. Kind of like folk singing elders – their name – what else than “The Sons of Mormon”.

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