Thursday, June 7, 2007


While we were in Mississippi doing Katrina rebuild work, I was on the drywall team. I think I mentioned that before. Anyway, while attending to the mudding aspect, our team lead, S, (a.k.a. “boss”) discovered that whoever had done the corners, prior to our arrival, had done a less than acceptable job. So the boss decided my dad and I would take care of the corners. That meant scraping off the “oops” areas and then redoing the corners with the cornering tool.
Have I mentioned that neither of us had mudded before? Neither of us had done corners before? Well, S showed us once how to do it and that was it. He was off and running to the other house. So we went ahead with what worked for us. Cornering was slow going when I worked solo, so we decided we’d team up at it. One of us would put up the mud and the other would use the cornering tool to scrape away and make it clean and neat. Dad decided he liked to mud better, which left me using the cornering tool. After a couple hours at it, we were doing fairly well and feeling pretty confident. We spent two and half days at this task—scraping and mudding and using the corner tool. I think I also mentioned before that we thought we were done before we had actually finished….so we had packed up everything and taken it over to the other house. Hence, the following day when the boss said we would be cornering again at house #1, we were without a tool. So, I made a call, told him we needed a corner tool along with some other tools and could he send them over? He did and we set to work finishing the mudding on the drywall we had hung.
Well, the first thing I noticed was they had brought a DIFFERENT tool than I had been using for the last couple days. I was frustrated. I had to hold my hand differently. I had to apply different pressure. It was awkward and I immediately went from an (amateur) expert to just another awkward amateur. Simply replacing one simple tool complicated the whole process and forced me to relearn everything I had been practicing.
Again, I’m now a trained theologian and simply couldn’t help myself. I started thinking about the parallels. I figure that when we give our congregations new songs, new prayers, new worship styles that it is similar to this experience of “retooling”. To those trained at using a variety of tools, the difference is hardly noticeable. But to those less familiar with a variety of the same tool—those who have been using the same tool for all of their work, the change is drastic. It takes them from expert to amateur in nothing flat. Our “veteran” congregants who felt comfortable and confident in their faith walk and spiritual disciplines now feel awkward, inadequate, and ill-equipped. No wonder people get flustered and frustrated with the changes we (the clergy) make to worship. We force them to feel “less than”, or stupid, or ill-trained, or whatever.
Now, let it be known that after a couple go’s with the new cornering tool, I was able to finish the corners just fine, and even went to the next house and felt even more confident and then could use either tool in my work. This, too, should be a lesson for the worshipping communities—we have to be willing to give it a go with the new tools we receive, to try and make them work, and then we can use EITHER one—in essence we become more adept, more capable, more trained, more able. So even though we passed through a time of “trial” in learning to use the “new thing”—we come out of it able to do even more, with greater confidence, and greater flexibility.

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