I have no idea who said this line originally, but it has come to mean much to me in my ministry. The parish I serve is a rural one, and has 5 points. We cover an area 100 miles long, there are no traffic lights, and we have more cows than people. Sometimes our roads collapse (Manitoba’s famous Highway 83) or get washed out in spring floods (ever driven over a fish? Ick); sometimes winter weather causes worship and bible study to be delayed or cancelled. I’m the sole clergy, there are no deacons or associates or retired honourary assistants or licensed lay readers.
Needless to say, by design we have to be a flexible bunch. Life happens; we adapt. Otherwise we really WOULD get bent out of shape.
Today, for example, the first worship took place in the parish hall rather than the church proper – somehow we had managed to get our programmable thermostat out of its schedule, so the church was only 46 degrees. So we gathered in the (warm) hall for Morning Prayer instead of Eucharist, and sang familiar hymns without an organ. Not quite as originally planned, but still meaningful worship for flexible folks. In the third worship service, when we realised our readers were missing, we had a bit of a delay as new volunteers popped up with bibles to find and then read the scriptures. Not ideal, but flexible – and worship was just as meaningful as had things gone perfectly smooth.
Ask me any Sunday night how worship has gone that day, and I can almost guarantee I could share an “oops” moment. We’ve had folks forget to set up for the Eucharist (so we have morning/evening prayer), we’ve had the wrong altar hangings left up (wouldn’t it be great if the worst thing to happen was to see the wrong liturgical colour hanging in the church?), we’ve had the preacher forget her notes (and thank God for a decent memory). Books have dropped, technology has failed, announcements have been erroneous.
We’re human. Mistakes happen. We try our best, we do everything we can to give great glory to God, but we fall short. And we decide not to get bent out of shape about it, because all is either out of our control or so trivial that it is forgotten within hours or days. Admittedly, there are things to get bent out of shape about – but also those things not worth the stress and anxiety. I’ve seen people’s blood pressure raise over imperfect flower arrangements or a misspelled word in a bulletin. But in this lovely parish I’m serving, we keep our focus on how to live out our faith in the world, and giggling at the minor oops moments. We choose to remain flexible in how we exercise our ministry.
How is your ministry/liturgy/community flexible? How is it not? How would you prefer to see things?