Boo! It's the church ghost! Actually, it's our administrative assistant , Jen. We were cleaning out the "Sunday School Supply Room." Why camouflage would be among our supplies is anyone's guess.
Church life shifts gears constantly: one minute you're dealing with a bereaved parishioner or a person in need, and the next you're cleaning out closets and wearing funny hats.
I codified some of this in about three pages at the beginning of my novel, Heart Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll in which assistant pastor Lins describes her Sunday morning. Some of it is drawn from my own experiences.
Click here to read what Lins’ Sunday is like.
The business about the coffee urn, by the way, is a real thing. While our coffee-maker no longer is hidden at our church, the coffee hour set-up people still have issues making the coffee, not to mention figuring out which of the coffee urns in the cabinet work.
Why we don’t throw the non-working ones out is not really a mystery. That’s because churches never throw anything out (unless they’re engaging in a yearly cleaning fit) because you never know when you might need it – even a dead coffee pot. It’s a not logical, we do it.
Aside what goes on during Sunday mornings, most people also don’t know what happens in a church during the week. Our administrative assistant Jen is supposed to prepare the Sunday bulletin (aka the program), answer the phone, write letters and emails, oversee the church calendar, and a whole bunch of other clerical things. My stated job is to oversee educational (spiritual formation) ministries, youth ministries, church communications, and assist the pastor Sunday mornings.
Sometimes nothing unusual happens during the week, and we execute our assigned duties with time to spare. Other times it’s a full-on party of people, all squished into a space designed to hold a secretary and maybe one other person. So, you can guess what happens to that “assigned duties” thing.
One of the other things our administrative assistant Jen and I do is solve mysteries. They’re not Sherlock Holmes types of mysteries but are mysteries nonetheless.
Take the “Case of the Vanished Paper Cutter.”
One day last fall, Jen wanted to cut some printed material in a half. So, she walked over to the tables by the window where we keep the paper cutter.
“Hey…” she suddenly said.
“What?” I asked.
“Where’s the paper cutter?”
I swiveled my chair around. “It’s not there?”
So, we began a hunt to find that a big, square slab of wood with an attached, moveable blade that always reminds me of a guillotine.
But it was nowhere to be found.
Figuring someone must have borrowed it, Jen went old-school and cut the pages in half with a pair of scissors.
Two weeks later and the paper cutter was still missing. I thought it might come back if I posted something on Facebook and so I did, asking if whoever had borrowed the paper cutter could please return it. But no one answered.
“There’s only one thing to do,” I announced days later. “We need to order a new paper cutter.”
“But what if the old one comes back?”
“Oh, it will. This is how it works: we order a new one and the old one will come back.”
“I’m not. We need a paper cutter, so we have to order a new one, but once we get it, the old one will come back.”
So, even though I was making no sense whatsoever, Jen ordered a new paper cutter. It arrived, and she happily began cutting things in half with it.
One day a few weeks later, we entered the office and…
There was the old paper cutter, sitting on the table right next the new one.
We still don’t know who borrowed the old one.
Some of our other mysteries include:
Yes, my friends, working in a church is more than a calling, it’s just plain weird. And I love it.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder