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August 21, 2008
Which office should I use? I can have my pick, they tell me: the beautiful one upstairs, just off the sanctuary, with its beautiful carved wooden door, its stained glass windows and stone barrel vault arches, its black marble floor? Or the tiny, windowless one downstairs, where an unlovely computer network case occupies one corner and a grey metal safe another, a room through which people pass constantly on their way from one place to somewhere else?

I go back and forth a bit, but in the end it is an easy choice. I want to be downstairs where the people are. I know I can make this little hole in the wall look better than it does; I like a challenge. And I like to work with my co-workers, not just visit them now and then. The best jokes and greatest love among colleagues develop when you face the same improbable events together: telling about them later just isn't the same. You have to be there.

At St. Clement's, an off-Broadway theater as well as a church, my office was often a pass-through for the actors: I would be working on my sermon and a trio of knights in chain mail would walk silently past my desk on their way to the other side of the house. Or the stage manager would come running down in a panic: did I have any glo-tape? Or a child from the After School program would be waiting in one of the comfortable chairs for her weary mother, late again to pick her up.

I'm so sorry to interrupt you, one of them would often say as he passed through. But my friend Philip always says clergy get paid to be interrupted: our days are never ordered as we imagine in the morning that they will be. When you work in the midst of a community, you're in its midst, and anything can happen. So one who needs a predictable life should probably find another line of work.

I find a painting of Christ Pantokrator, one hand raised in blessing and the other holding a globe, instead of the more common gospel book. I hang it over my deak. And I find an ebony cross inlaid with mother-of-pearl up. It casts a dramatic shadow on the rough white wall behind it, and looks so beautiful that you don't see right away that it's sitting on a tall steel computer case. I think I can find a small wooden table on which to put my printer, thereby losing the bulky stand on which it now sits, and exposing more of the lovely old plaster wall behind it.

That's enough for today, I guess -- I have work to do. But already I have something beautiful to look at while I pray in my little office, which will no longer be a hole in the wall: it will be a little jewel, a safe and lovely place of work and fellowship. I tune in some sacred music from centuries ago on the computer, and it fills the small space with holiness.

My office is now enough like the one at home that Ben recognizes that's what it is, and takes his accustomed place on my lap, while I begin to type.
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