A photo of me working at home? What a great idea. I grabbed my phone and scanned through my albums. One by one, I sent off the photos. “How about this one of me working on the excavator, tearing up blackberries?”
I sent a second one, that included some church members. Maybe that would be more fun for people to see. “Here is one of me and Ed and Tyler installing a freeze-free faucet down in the ram pen,” I wrote.
Then a third one. This time it was an actual church event on the farm. That might be even better: “Here’s one of Apple Day last year.”
As I went about my chores that day, I waited for an email reply that would tell me which work picture Roger had chosen. And since on that day I was also moving about two tons of hay, I took some photos of that too. Just in case he needed more.
Soon enough his reply came.
“Catherine, I’m sorry, but I wasn’t clear enough about what we were looking for. Since we’re representing the Stewardship Ministry, we were wanting to get a photo of you working on your computer at home. Part of our message is that we’ve had to adapt our administrative resources to these times.”
At least at the end he added, as if to let me down easy, “I did like the photographs you sent . . .”
There are so many ways to understand “work.“ Here on the farm, when someone asks about my work at home, my mind naturally goes to the chores. Every morning, setting out hay for the sheep, moving them from the barn to the field. Running the dogs, feeding the chickens, checking the water levels in everybody’s tub, tank, trough or bowl. And in the evening, bedding down the sheep and chickens, feeding the dogs and the cat. There is always work here at the farm. And it is work I love.
But over the last seven months my work at home has also included my church work. It is mostly done by telephone and computer. I am hosting a zoom meeting. I am making a phone call. I am taping a sermon. I am writing a news article. I am hosting another zoom meeting. There is always work to do in the church. This is also work I love.
In addition, it remains clear how much work we need to continue to do in our world. I am in awe of how many folks in our congregation worked so hard to encourage people to vote, sending cards, letters, and texts all across the country, making phone calls, reaching out. I am moved by the hard work this congregation is doing around issues of systemic racism, even more evident in our country in this pandemic time. I am moved by the work that we all have done to stay connected over the last seven months, learning to use new tools, keeping one another safe by staying apart, but still showing up for Bible study, worship, educational programs, retreats, even if it all has to be done online.
I also know that parents are working hard right now, trying to find the energy to meet job requirements while caring for children and making even the smallest space for self care. Sometimes our work is simply to figure out how to be gentle with ourselves.
All this makes me wonder if I asked for a picture of you at work at home, what picture you might send.
In the end, I sent Roger this picture of me at the computer. On the screen are folks in a zoom meeting. What you can’t see out the window are the sheep grazing in the pasture. I get to watch that flock from my desk, as I also tend my Seattle flock, from my desk, and do what I can to work for more love and justice in the world, from my desk. I am looking forward to the time when we can gather together again safely and responsibly. In the meantime, I will keep doing my “home work.” It is all work I love.