Just over a year ago I reduced my working days from 5 to 4 in order to have Fridays free. I wanted to use half of the day for volunteering and do something useful for others for a change. On my first free Friday I met with the Church manager to see whether I could be of service in some small way to my Church. What would you like to do? He asked me. What would be most helpful to you? I countered. I added that I could do administration or cleaning or make cups of tea. I could come most Friday mornings. In short I could do any random job that would help them. I could be their Girl Friday. In fact I was ready to start right away that morning.
So I was introduced to some of the main people who keep the church running in front of and behind the scenes and who work tirelessly for little or no pay just to bring the gospel to others and to show God's love in a practical way. I met the amazing lady (small enough to fit in my pocket) who takes care of the homeless, running the food shelter, providing food and clothing and much much more. I realised that she's probably the reason why so many homeless people hang around outside the church. It's not in an affluent area anyway but the number hanging around the street, with their dogs and menacing air made me slightly fearful waiting for the church office door to open. This lady commands their respect I'm told, because she gives it to them straight, she tells them the truth and more importantly she takes the time to see them as the real people they are. I start to feel ashamed of my earlier reaction. I met the chap who does Christian outreach work in the local primary schools - running assemblies, holiday bible clubs, Sunday school etc. He tells me that he'll start thinking of ways I can help him. I then go up to the top office to meet the Pastor who makes a good show of seeming to know who I am. I certainly don't expect him to as although I regularly attend services on a Sunday morning, the Church has around 500 people there and I don't take part in many Church social activities nor am I a member. His study has a wonderful amount of books in it and some antique looking furniture. I try to remember my manners and restrain myself from gawping at his shelves. It's probably the nicest office in the building. There is nothing luxurious about any of the Church office rooms. In fact the whole building smells damp and everything looks well used. But in it's own way this is pleasing. I know that any funding the Church gets is put to a higher purpose than frills and fripperies. It's how it should be. My first task was to go into the church to collect any rubbish left from last Sunday and then lay out the Welcome cards in the pews. The church administrator shows me the way that she does it and once she leaves me to it I take a quick photo on my phone of a finished pew to make sure I don't mess my ones up. She comes back in unexpectedly to explain about the locking system of the doors and I guiltily hide my phone in the rubbish box. I don't want her to think that I'm slacking on the job already. It takes a long time to do all the pews downstairs and then upstairs in the gallery. As well as collecting an amazing amount of rubbish (people seem to eat a lot of sweets in church), I pick up pens, broken pencils, a crayon, a welcome card which had a piece bitten off, someone's bible and the strangest thing of all, a big tub of aloe vera body lotion. Is dry skin a problem in Church? I also collect two dirty coffee cups hidden under a pew. The lost property cupboard is brimming with even more unlikely items (shouldn't someone have noticed their house / car keys are missing by now?) as I attempt to shove mine in and close the door quickly to prevent them from escaping. I get lost trying to find my way back to the church office (the place is like a rabbit warren) and have to get the tiny lady to show me the way back. My second job involves collating and stapling directions for a treasure hunt that the Church are holding for their Away Day. The church manager tells me that he's been forbidden to look at the info ahead of the day, but I tell him that I can work out how to do this on my own anyway. Until I run out of staples after the 2nd leaflet. My last job was going to be some general hoovering but unfortunately the Hoover was broken. I quickly explained that I had no engineering skills to fix it so I was released for the day. It felt good to walk home knowing that at last I have done something that will be of help to others. True my jobs were very small and relatively insignificant, but someone has to do them. Perfect for a Girl Friday.