My husband and I just got back from a relaxing vacation in a little cottage Up North, the woods and waters of the upper Great Lakes states. During that week, I saw God’s handiwork everywhere—in the high limestone bluffs that lean over the sapphire-blue waters of the bay and in the dark cedars and white birches of the surrounding forests.
I saw God’s handiwork in another place, too—the little church in the resort town where we stayed, a church that’s open only from May through September. A beautiful old building, it’s as simple and elegant as a bird’s wing, surrounded by a garden with a low stone wall.
Various clergy and musicians take turns serving during the season. There’s no staff, no church secretary, no parish administrator, no youth minister, no staff musician. Who makes sure that things get done?
Everyone. The people—the summer parishioners and the year-round residents—do it. A small committee coordinates big decisions (like the controversial decision to bring in electricity back in the ‘90s—that’s the 1990s, not the 1890s).
And the congregation is thriving. The building and the grounds gleam with loving care, the word is preached and the sacraments are shared, the pews are full, people linger after worship to chat—even with visitors!—and the church gives to support neighbors in need. Somehow, things get done!
I clearly saw God’s handiwork in that little church Up North.
My husband was astonished. A member of our church council and finance committee, he lugs a book bag full of thick binders to meeting after meeting. Our ministry chart shows dozens of committees, ministry coordinators, committee chairs, council members and more. Somehow, things get done!
I see God’s handiwork in our busy suburban church too.
What’s the lesson in this for us? Maybe it’s that God doesn’t need a particular organizational structure to carry out God’s work.
Maybe we don’t have to organize ourselves in any particular way to be Women of the ELCA. We can meet during the week and on Sunday to discuss Café while the kids are in Sunday school. We can have an elected board and pop-up groups to put together occasional events.
Maybe the real lesson is that it doesn’t matter how we carry out our mission and purpose as Women of the ELCA; it only matters that we do so.
Audrey Novak Riley is director for stewardship for Women of the ELCA.
Photo: Church of the Atonement, Fish Creek, Wis. Used with permission