Sharing in Work
and Other Activities
"Could you hand me up that bucket of water?" Jacob stood on a ladder washing the upper windows of the church.
"Dobrey," Irma called. "Would you help me move this pew? I need to scrub this spot over here a little more."
The scene: The Pitcairn Island Seventh-day Adventist Church. The activity: All-member work day on which all the cleaning and repairing get done that didn't fall within the pale of regular church maintenance and cleaning.
Church life on Pitcairn amounted to more than just attending services on Sabbath morning and Tuesday night. Many activities took place throughout the week, though a lot of them were unseen.
In order for any program to be a success leaders have to prepare for it. This work was done by those who had been chosen by the church for this purpose.
♦ The treasurer took care of the offerings and kept the church financial records.
♦ The deacons cared for the physical repair of the building and grounds, passed the offering plates at the regular Sabbath morning services, and delivered the offering to the treasurer.
♦ The deaconesses cared for, among other things, the grooming of the grounds and prepared for and cleaned up after communion and the ordinance of foot washing.
Some work done by members could be seen by all, while equally important work done by others remained hidden. The Sabbath School superintendent, the children's division leader, the elders, deacons, and deaconesses all performed some of their duties before the entire church, while the clerk, the librarian, the lay activities secretary often worked behind the scenes.
The pastor performed some of these hidden-but-seen activities. These included preparing the Sabbath sermon and coordinating mission work with the Central Pacific Union Mission in Auckland, New Zealand. He also lead out in the worship on Sabbath morning, the Tuesday evening prayer meeting, and in the organizational activities such as the church board and business meetings.
Sometimes the results of the work could be seen, while the one who did it remained almost anonymous. The weekly cleaning of the church building was a good example of this. The Pitcairn church had no funds for hiring a custodian, and had to rely entirely upon volunteer labor. So the task was divided among the various families who cleaned the church weekly―on a rotating basis.
Two families usually worked together each week, dusting the pews, sweeping and mopping the floors, gathering flowers for decoration, and tidying the grounds around the building. During dry seasons this task could be done in a couple of hours. But removing mud tracked in during rainy weather became a real chore. Regardless of the conditions, however, the church always appeared neat, clean, and trimmed with beautiful flowers for the regular services.
God's work has no unimportant jobs, and those who cleaned the church from week to week glorified their Maker through this important―though unsung―work, fully as much as did those who lead out in the various services. David taught this principle, and it still applies today: "The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike," 1 Samuel 30:24, (NIV).
So in the work of the church, those who worked behind the scenes shared in the blessings of God just as truly as those who perform in public.
Sharing in Island Work
The same principle of shared labor that the church uses also worked for the entire island. Many activities of public interest and benefit were performed by elected officials who received payment for their work―the magistrate, secretary, postmaster, agricultural supervisor, work committee chairman, and others. Much of their work was done behind the scenes, and though their labor was not visible, the effects were apparent to everyone.
All major activities on Pitcairn, however, involved the entire community. This arose from the island's compact size and because of the small population. Pitcairners prayed, played, and worked together and this welded them into a tight-knit group that could stand together against tremendous odds.
These people paid no taxes―at least not in money. Instead they joined forces to keep the island going. Public work included the repairing of longboats, clearing roads, and other chores. Sometimes heavy work involved only the men; but often every able-bodied man, woman, and child joined together to accomplish their goal. Sometimes the island people received a small sum for their work out of administrative funds.
One pay/per/hour work day found the entire working community down on flat rocks, gathering sand to use in various cement projects. Everyone helped in some way: Some shoveled sand out of tidal-pools. Others scooped it into bags, or carried loaded sacks to the rubber dingy, or dumped the sand into barrels aboard the longboat, or cared for the children.
The work moved along in a relaxed atmosphere with time for people to sit and talk, to fish, or to horse around. Several people suddenly found themselves in the water, pushed by a playful friend.
"Let's get Pastor," Clarice whispered. So she and Terry over-powered me and swung me hands and feet yo-heave-ho into the drink―clothes and all. When I came up I discovered that Clarice had also pushed the unsuspecting Terry in after me
"Hey," sputtered Terry, "we were working together, remember?"
Clarice displayed an impish grin. "Better luck next time."
Every activity seemed to draw the people closer together―even the accident later that hurt Clarice's arm.
This same togetherness appeared after church services, at public meetings, and at mail call. People sat around the square, talking or just being together in silence―their closeness encouraging each other physically, mentally, and spiritually.
This fellowship unified the community. Of course there were individual differences on Pitcairn as anywhere else; and at times tempers flared. But when these people prayed and played and worked together they formed a bond between them closer than I've seen in most families. And in reality―though each person belonged to his/her own family―they are one big community-family.
Perhaps Paul had this in mind when he wrote: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another―and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 (NIV).