Thursday, November 1, 2012

Doing Laundry - A Church Analogy

Pink old fashioned washing machine :-)This morning, as the tea kettle was preparing to boil, I decided to start the first load of laundry. It was only a few cleaning towels and rags, but I don't like to mix them with the "regular" wash.

So I threw them in the front-loader, punched a few buttons on the control panel, poured in a little liquid bleach and detergent and pressed "Start."  I could hear the quiet hum of the machine as I went back to pour my tea.

As I listened to the machine begin its work, I was struck by how completely effortless laundry is today compared to my youth.  While I am not old enough to remember the days of the "wash board" (that was my grandmother's generation) I do recall wringer washing machines of long ago.

Every family had some horror story about someone they knew, or had at least heard about, who had caught a finger or two, or even an entire arm in the wringer.  Every young girl, when being apprenticed to do family laundry, learned how to carefully set the rollers, and then even more carefully "feed the clothes" into and through the wringer.

The wash was usually only done one day a week, and for our household it was Saturdays.  And it was an all-day affair.  Each load could take from twenty minutes to an hour, depending upon whether it had to have a second rinse and/or go through a starch solution.

Each item was run through the wringer, out of the main machine tub, into a rinse water tub, then each item was again run through the wringer into a basket.

The basket was then carried to the back yard clothesline, where you hung up each item with clothes pins. These pins might be of the "stick on" variety, which had two "legs" and a "head" which we sometimes made little dolls out of; or they might be the spring-hinged type, which could pinch your fingers if you were not careful.
clothes line
If your family consisted of several people as ours did, you likely would have eight or ten loads each week, and if each load took an hour to wash, wring, rinse, wring, starch, wring, then hang - well, you were looking at a long day.  
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Today, I never spend an entire day doing laundry.  Generally, I throw in a load here or there, whenever the fancy strikes me.

The machines do all the work, except for folding and putting away, and even that small effort sometimes irritates me as being a complete waste of time.  Perhaps I have become lazy.
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In my youth, we often walked to church. Once there, we  actively participated in the services (as compared to passively sitting in a pew and watching the service unfold).  For instance, when the song leader called out the page number in the hymnal, pages could be heard rustling all over the auditorium; and when the organist and pianist hit the first notes, nearly every voice in the place was raised in glad song.   After the sermon and closing prayer, we stood around talking with our friends for quite awhile. Eventually we walked home.
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These days, we can hardly be bothered to actually participate.  The congregational singing is often so weak that I am careful to sing very quietly, because if I let go "full-throated" I could drown out the whole kit and kaboodle, and wouldn't that be embarrassing?

We no longer use much "bleach" in our services.  Old hymns with language like "What can wash away my sins?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus." are rarely heard.

We don't "hang much out to dry" either.  We used to have what was called "testimony time" in the old church services.  During this time, any attendee could stand give a "praise report" or a prayer request.  It was through such testimonies that my faith was often challenged, as I heard first hand of the struggles others were encountering.  

And it was through these reports of answered prayer that my faith was strengthened and inspired to strive for a higher calling.  Sure, sometimes someone would stand and deliver an ill-advised soliloquy; and listeners would cringe a little.  So what?  We got over it and moved on.

Now, only those who have been thoroughly vetted for oddities, personality quirks, or some off-beat doctrinal stance, are ever allowed to speak in even the smallest way.  Much like those old wringer-machines, which could be labor intensive but were also pretty satisfying when the clean garments came squeezing through the rollers, so hearing a quavery-voiced old man speak of God's unfailing faithfulness (even though when he stood no one knew what he might say) gave soul satisfaction in a way that many of the currently sanitized announcements and activities do not.

And forget about "standing around" and visiting after services.  Our pastor actually had to ask people to either stay after service and visit for a few minutes, or if they must leave immediately, to please remember to behave like Christians getting out of the jammed parking lot!  (No, I am not making this up.)
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Those old church auditoriums were often drafty in winter and in summer they were hotter than where-we-so-fervently-did-not-wish-to-end-up.  But the people were real, down-to-earth, genuine fellow laborers together.  We painted church kitchens, scrubbed church bathrooms, and sorted junk stuff for rummage sales together.

Today we have professionally back-lit stages, professional musicians who would not dare hit a wrong note, and computer controlled "everything" from the temperature to the drop-down menus for the announcements.  It is clean and pleasant.

So is the laundry I just put away ... clean and pleasant, that is.  But it gave me no heart satisfaction.  Of course, this could just be me.  
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Hope someone or something gave you a little heart satisfaction today.  Until next time ... Marsha


  1. Ah, so true. I do enjoy contemporary praise and worship, but I do have a fierce longing from time to time for the hymns of my youth. We still have a praise report time, which to me is always one of the highlights. As always, another terrific post.

    1. Shelly - Right there with you - I do enjoy the contemporary services and still sometimes long for the "former days". :) Thank you and have a good day.

  2. So enjoyed reading this post! We still go to the service that has old time hymns - plus I lead Hymn Sing where I work - but I find that the same heart and spirit connection that our church family had where I grew up, is no longer around. Things are different now - and I guess we are different now too! Thankfully Jesus is still the same yesterday, today and forever!

  3. About that heart felt laundry...ya..I wish I were already completed each time I start it. hahahaaa.