As I was finishing up my prayers and preparing to write this morning, my secretary came into my office with word that one of the Child Care Center's teachers had informed her that the sinks in the ladies' room was spewing scalding hot water. Such is parish ministry. Again and again over the past decade and a half, I can call to mind dozens of these moments: when prayer becomes plumbing. Sometimes, when the plumbing challenge is serious enough, prayer comes quite easily. I recall one moment in my last parish when, right before an early morning Sunday service, the property chair came rushing up to me with word that one of the church's basements was flooded. The water heater, a big, overbuilt, custom model had just died an ugly death. Would I come check it out? Sure. Talk about prayer being inspired by plumbing! Upon opening the door to the utility room where the water heater was domiciled, both of us immediately invoked the name of our savior and proceeded (with his cuffs rolled up and my vestements bunched in hand to keep them out of the near-ankle deep water) to assess what could be done before the situation worsened. Or, there was the time when one of the staff accidentally left a sink running early one morning and I found a pond of water cascading down a hallway ramp. Another moment of prayer, one of thanksgiving for a faithful and able sexton who in flash had mop and bucket out to save the day.
Today's challenge was more puzzle than crisis: two sinks dripped hot water while at the same time offering no pressure. One, the center sink, is fine. Time for a referral to those with wiser hands and deeper understanding. Some mysteries, both divine and corporal, do elude me.
For now, the leader of the parish is yet again on his knees...praying to God for grace and salvation while at the same time coaxing a stubborn and slightly rusted shutoff valve from stasis into movement. A crisis of flood is averted and little ones will not suffer scalded hands.
Praise to God for these moments when I remember that the life of faith is not just found at my prayer desk. It is also discovered, and celebrated, through the challenges of dealing again and again with how things fall apart, and how people (of skill, patience and faith) bring them back together again in service and celebration of God's kingdom.
Vive les plombiers!