At my home church, Church of the Resurrection in Spokane Valley, there is a way to serve the church called “pig duty.” The church doesn’t have a pet pig but rather an industrial vacuum that looks like a pig. It has a short nozzle that looks like a snout and a large faded-red bag that inflates to the size of a beach ball. The bag inflates above the stainless steel vacuum canister which is supported by four stout wheels that resemble hoofs, and a curly electric cord for a tail. Someone once said it looks like a pig and the name stuck. As you may have guessed, pig duty consists of vacuuming the church. Like an usher schedule, pig duty is listed in the bulletin with a rotating schedule of five people.
One of the parishioners said that pig duty was one of the most spiritual activities that she does all month. It’s a time for her to be alone, in the house of God, and to serve. She feels refreshed and at peace when she is done.
I attended a Benedictine university which believes in St. Benedict’s rule of life, which says, in part, that praying to God and laboring for God are equally important. Fr. Killian, a professor of church history and an avid runner, would tell his students that it is important to study for a test but it’s also important to take a break and do physical exercise. One day I took him up on his offer. Instead of cramming for a test, I went for a run around the wooded campus. It worked – my test score was higher than if I had crammed. Later on, when I’d go for a run, I’d tell my roommates that I was studying.
The parishioner who enjoyed her spiritual “pig time” understands that prayer and labor are intertwined. Instead of laboring in a field (like what Benedict originally declared as labor), she was actually laboring in a church, which, in her mind, was like praying twice. That reminds me of something my seminary professor of church music said: “When you sing in church, you pray twice.”
Some changes have been made in the way that Saint John’s gets cleaned. We are using a cleaning company to clean the church for Sunday. This provides a considerable cost savings for us. It also gives us flexibility. When there is a wedding on Saturday, we can contract with the company to clean after the ceremony; likewise for other events in the church. This change has also provided us an opportunity because the company is not vacuuming the pews (because we didn’t know how often they’d need to be vacuumed and thus didn’t know if we should spend the additional $600 per year for that particular service).
Saint John’s offers many ways to serve Christ, the Church, and the world. And now, we have a new way – Pig Duty. We have a special, hand-held unit that vacuums the pews. It’s small, portable, and while it looks nothing like a pig, you can use your imagination to identify with Resurrection up in Washington. If you are willing to labor thirty minutes a month in service, and therefore prayer, maybe this is the opportunity for you. Friday afternoons from 3 pm to 5 pm is the window and if you are interested, let me know.
God calls us to labor and to prayer. After all, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” I think this includes parishioners who care for our rose garden, folks who labor making food for the needy, those who raise their voices in choir, our ushers and acolytes, those who deliver donated food, our knitters and prayer blanket makers, committee, group and Vestry members, those who volunteer their time in the office, Sunday school, and for fellowship set up and clean up; it’s all serving God through labor.