Watching some Olympic event this week has reminded me of a question I have posed to persons attending my occasional workshop on “Integrating the Daily Office into your Daily Life.” If you think of church life as an athletic event, what are the corresponding roles? For much of my life I thought the clergy were the team on the field and the parishioners in the pews were like the fans and the spectators in the stands. And if church is a Sunday morning only thing, one could be forgiven for seeing it that way. But I suggest that that is not the best way to look at it. To mix the metaphors, I think of the gathering for worship on Sunday morning as analogous to an army in dress uniform on the parade ground. And while the parade ground serves a purpose for the army, looking good on the parade ground is not the purpose of an army. The purpose of an army is to fight and win battles and wars, and an army that only looks good on the parade ground isn’t really an army at all. No, I now think of the people in the pews, the lay members, as the team on the field. And when not on the parade ground – that is, in the pews – the war they are called to wage is fought daily in their places of work and play and leisure. And the essence of the war is summed up in the baptismal vows and in the answer to the question “What is the ministry of the laity?” on page 855 of the Book of Common Prayer. What then are the clergy in the athletic event analogy? I think they are the coaches and the trainers. And the people in the stands and following on TV and in the news? They are the world at large, watching us, maybe cheering us on, but some also cheering for the other side. And make no mistake – they are watching – and taking careful note of how we are doing.
Ron Hicks. Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Church, Washington DC