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Doing Dishes for God

Derby Swanson
October 25, 2018

The season of holiday gatherings is almost upon us. Festive tables, delicious feasts and a spectacular amount of work to plan, prepare and clean up afterward. If you are hosting family and friends in the coming season, you are probably already making lists, thinking about how many chairs you have and dreading the wrinkled tablecloth.


Carrie Newcomer is an artist that I have listened to often over the years. One of her songs that I have especially loved, titled “Holy as Day is Spent,” evokes the spirit of gratitude and care that I think describes the ministry at the heart of serving others.


Holy as a day is spent

Holy is the dish and drain

The soap and sink, and the cup and plate

And the warm wool socks, and the cold white tile


Shower heads and good dry towels

And frying eggs sound like psalms

With bits of salt measured in my palm

It's all a part of a sacrament

As holy as a day is spent


Holy is the familiar room

And quiet moments in the afternoon

And folding sheets like folding hands

To pray as only laundry can


My work as worship administrator involves interacting with a broad range of people and ministries at Trinity Church. But the bulk of my time is spent with those involved in worship. The are many categories of worship volunteers - the lectors who proclaim scripture and lead prayers, the LEMs (Lay Eucharistic Ministers) who share in distributing the elements of communion, the acolytes who carry cross and torches. The Altar Guild is a much less forward-facing crew. Members of the Guild frequently bring the wine and bread forward for the Offertory, and they are most visible on Maundy Thursday (think water and towels for foot washing and stripping the altar in preparation for Good Friday).


But every week, before and after every service, this small crew is preparing for the feast: ironing and folding the linens; cleaning, drying, and polishing the vessels—some beautiful like silver pitchers, silver boxes, blown glass chalice and carafes; some mundane like funnels.


One member of the Guild thinks of her service on the Altar Guild as “being a hostess:”


“I set the table for the Eucharist, making sure that the silver, glassware and linen are properly placed, taking the same care as I would if serving a meal in my home. As for washing and cleaning up after the service and washing and ironing the linens, what an honor to do so after partaking of Christ’s meal for us!”


Another former head of the Guild called it “doing dishes for God”! It’s a simple thing—doing dishes, washing and ironing.  At the same time, it’s profound—caring for holy things and preparing for the feast.


If any of the above speaks to you, perhaps you are feeling a call to serve on the Altar Guild or any number of other ministries of care-taking and hospitality. We would welcome you!  Please contact me to learn more.





Derby Swanson

Worship Administrator


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