It’s laundry. That’s what grabs me in this image; the wash hanging out to dry on a clothesline. Dated 1927, the picture was in a collection of photographs celebrating the completion of our present Sanctuary. The camera faces the west transept that now features the Holy Spirit window. Today, part of the parking lot and the lawn in the foreground was the side yard of Converse House when it served as our manse. More than likely this was the personal laundry of the family of the Rev. Andrew Mutch, our pastor from 1912-1936.
I love it. I love the way the mundane is juxtaposed next to the sacred; a pair of underpants sailing in the shadow of our soaring gothic church.
I stumbled across the image while I was down in the archive room this week, collecting material to showcase in celebration of our sesquicentennial this fall. It’s as good a reminder as any that not only are clergy very human, but that the task of Christian living involves the commonplace and seemingly benign. Not even Presbyterian ministers are exempt from doing laundry, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, or taking out the trash. In fact, those acts may help shape our awareness of God’s deep infusion in and care for creation, if we pay attention.
It's easy to get caught up in the idea that there is holy work and then there is other work. But as one theologian noted, “The vocation of a Christian is not to be confused with having a job by which one earns one’s livelihood. Whatever one’s job or profession, as a Christian one is called to be a partner in God’s mission in the world…Christian life is in movement outward to others and forward to the future of the completion of God’s redemptive activity.” Our call as followers of Christ is to live in gracious response to God’s love in whatever we are doing.
One of my favorite singer-songwriters is fellow Hoosier and folk artist, Carrie Newcomer. In her song Holy as a Day is Spent, she notes that the ordinary acts of daily living are actually infused with holiness. In one stanza she sings,
Holy is the familiar room
And quiet moments in the afternoon
And folding sheets like folding hands
To pray as only laundry can
I'm letting go of all my fear
Like autumn leaves made of earth and air
For the summer came and the summer went
As holy as a day is spent
Likewise, the biblical witness tells us that all of life is filled with sacramental living, if only we will notice. That’s something we can hang our hats on, or our britches; better yet, our very lives.