It was the smallest of ministry opportunities.
Mary, the pastor's assistant at my church, called one evening to ask if I'd be part of a new group that would stay late on Sunday mornings to straighten pew racks and prepare the sanctuary for the following week. I was one of several single women she was calling to solicit help, she said, explaining that she hoped to provide an opportunity for the women to get to know one another while performing a needed service for the church.
I readily agreed. While I wondered what made unmarried women uniquely qualified for the pew-cleaning task, I was grateful for an opportunity to meet other singles. I'd been attending the church for more than a year, but with 800 members and no singles' group, it had been difficult to make friends. Couples tended to gravitate toward one another, and the greeting time built into the morning services allowed for quick handshakes and hellos, but little else.
Eight or 10 women turned out the first Sunday, and we gathered in a small circle in the back of the sanctuary while Mary offered simple instructions. We briefly introduced ourselves, then fanned out across the sanctuary to begin our task.
Although we worked in pairs at first, following Mary's suggestion, we realized that the job would be finished more quickly if each of us took a section independently. I crossed to the front left section and made my way across the first row, placing pew Bibles back in their racks, turning misplaced hymnals right-side-up, and collecting discarded bulletins. I continued row by row until I reached one with books already neatly in place.1