The ordinary tasks of tending that nourish

The ordinary tasks of tending that nourish

By Rev. Kayla Bonewell

As a pastor I am “religious” about rest and renewal; if I do not make space for refreshment and replenishment each and every week, then I have no patience or compassion to extend to my congregation or community. Because my wife and I do not have children, I am able to take Tuesdays and Wednesdays off for my sabbath.  (Other pastors prefer Fridays, Saturdays, or Mondays which work better with their children’s school schedule).  

You know those “attach and detach” keychains?  On one end of my keychain is my house and car key; on the other end are my church keys.  On Monday evenings (the equivalent of my Friday nights),  I pull into the driveway and ritualistically detach the church keys from my house and car key.  I set them carefully in my car console, and remember a line from a poem by William C. Martin: “Work a modest day, then step back and rest.  This will keep you close to God.”  (Martin, 9) 

On Monday nights we stay up late, going out to dinner or watching movies.  It’s the beginning of our weekend, accompanied with a sense of excitement and relief.  On Tuesdays, I engage in several of the most satisfying tasks of the week: I vacuum, water the plants, and shop for the groceries.  For many years now I have owned one of those see-through vacuums which allow you to notice all the dust and debris which gets sucked up.  I methodically run the device over our rugs and revel in the weekly vacuuming ritual.  Ever since I studied cosmology, I realized I am literally sweeping up particles of stardust that have been around since the initial flaring forth of our universe!  (Ecclesiastes 3:20- “All go to the same place; all come from dust and to dust all return.) 

As a pastor, I am blessed to work with the beauty and messiness which accompanies community life, but often there are very few tasks that one can mark as “done.”  Ministry is on-going, and I sometimes long for a task which has a clear beginning, middle, and end.  Vacuuming sooths my soul.  At the end of my stardust sweeping, I empty the debris into the trash, and can see a measurable difference in the tidiness within our home. 

After vacuuming comes the watering of plants.  I visit each potted friend and notice its growth or need for pruning. Sometimes one aloe plant has grown its leaves long enough to touch and hold the hand of another aloe; I honor and notice the friendships between living beings. I share praise and compliments with the rooted nation; “Oh what gorgeous blooms you are growing,” I whisper to the Christmas cactus, who started shooting out white buds around Thanksgiving this year.    

Finally, I make my way to the grocery store to purchase fresh fruits and veggies, coffee and chocolate, and whatever else has made the list this week.  My favorite store is close to home and only 5 aisles wide. There are two or three options for each item; quality products with limited decisions to be made. I find this makes the shopping experience calming, enjoyable, and efficient. Once home, I put away the groceries and begin to hard boil the eggs for the salads which I prep for the following week. I light a candle in the kitchen and enjoy slicing the bell peppers and little blocks of cheese that get added to each salad container.  

Once Tuesday’s chores are finished, I feel proud, accomplished, and satisfied. It’s time for book-reading, art-making, nature-walking, sunset-gazing, friend and family phone-calling, or the rare but cherished nap on the couch. My patience and compassion for myself, my congregations, and the wider community expands and strengthens. Come Thursday morning, I am ready and grateful to re-attach those church keys from my car console onto my keychain; I’m refreshed for another week of compassion and justice work.      

Martin, William C. “The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections.” Vital Faith Resources, Pittsburgh: 1994

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kayla bonewellRev. Kayla Bonewell was born and raised in Oklahoma City. Ordained in the United Church of Christ (2010), Kayla has ministry experience as a hospital chaplain, campus minister, social justice activist, youth minister, associate and solo pastor. She is currently the pastor of Church of the Open Arms UCC and Cathedral of Hope UCC in Oklahoma City. As a Creation Spirituality practitioner, she is passionate about relevant worship, spiritual growth, and community justice. She lives with her wife Dana Johnson, and two pups Rascal and Berkly.

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