At dinner the other day I was laughing about the mop situation at our parish. The padre I was eating with suggested I write about the mops, and all the other things that move around the parish. Pots and pans, wringer buckets, mops, hammers and screwdrivers. They all walk around (and sometimes out the door, too, I suspect). Where are they going, and how do they get there?
At a staff meeting a couple of weeks ago I laughingly accused our music director of taking the wringer buckets home. Last week it was the mops. What’s going on?
At our parish, we have many, many volunteers. A lot of them help with cleaning the place. Some clean the church. Some clean the rectory. Some clean the coffee shop, and some are working on the adoration chapel. Some clean the hall. Some do food sales or banquets for the parish. Pans move. Some do yard work outside. Yes, the rakes and shovels move around, too.
It turns out that when you have so many people sharing mops, sooner or later they start hiding them. They come to clean upstairs in the rectory, for example, and someone (who knows who it might have been) has taken the “upstairs” mop down into the parish hall to mop the bathrooms. Then the upstairs cleaners go and find the mop. They use it, then they hide it. That way, when they need to use it the next week, they’ll know where it is.
Of course, I live upstairs, and I have an old dog. Does he pee on the floor sometimes? Yes. And worse, too. So, I go and look for the mop and wringer bucket in the upstairs shower. Where it’s supposed to be. Is it there? No. Then what? I sometimes go downstairs to the rectory 1st floor storage room, where another bucket and mop are supposed to live. Then I don’t find them there. Off I go to the Home Depot to buy another mop and wringer bucket. We joked in the staff meeting that all the buckets and mops were hiding in one of the rooms in the basement, and we hadn’t found them yet.
Nobody tells you about this side of having a lot of volunteers around. We have tons of them. And, we don’t have a maintenance person on our staff. Why not?
Years ago (more than 25 years ago) I visited the diocese of Wichita Kansas with some parishioners. We were going to look at how their school system functioned, and how their parishes were working. We wanted to copy some of what they were doing for our own parish, and we did. What we saw were parishes that were crawling with people. We went on a weekend and visited 3 parishes. Every one of them had tons of people at work. People working in the garden, people working cleaning the church, people working in the school. It was like watching a bunch of Pentecostals, except that they were Catholics.
What were they up to? It turns out that when people put their hand on a paintbrush, they’re far more likely to support their parish in other ways. When they clean the building themselves, they notice the flaking paint, or the loose mortar. They understand much more immediately what the physical needs of the parish are, and they’re more likely to pitch in time and talent (and treasure) to take care of things. When they make some food, they’re more likely to come and join an event where a fellow parishioner has made some food. And so on.
Of course, this kind of thing makes the lawyers a little nervous. If you hire professionals to paint, they have their own insurance and liability coverage. It’s also easier, from the point of actually living in a place, to hire the pros. That way your mops don’t go missing. Or your pans. The woman on our staff who orders Pine Sol is convinced that we’re supplying the whole neighborhood!
If you’re going to run your parish this way, it takes some prudence. You don’t want a neighborhood guy way up in the air on a scaffold. Maybe he’ll fall off and get hurt. He’d never in his whole life think of suing the parish. But his wife and kids have to eat and go to school, and he can ‘t work anymore. You get it.
Still, part of the price of having a vibrant and growing parish is getting as many people as possible to touch a brick, or a broom, or a frying pan, or a paintbrush. It’s a pain in the neck sometimes. Maybe you lose a mop or some supplies. It’s aggravating. Sometimes it’s great fun! Imagine how we’ll feel here when we find all the wringer buckets and mops in their hiding place smoking cigarettes. We’ll yell at them, and tell them “get back to work you smarmies.”