Chipping Ice

“There are different kinds of gifts.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4

When I was area minister in Western Massachusetts, a place of great natural beauty and even more intricate human beauty, the 125 congregations in my area were mostly small and surely frugal, especially when trying to hire a pastor.

I always asked what the biggest problem was that they had with the last minister.  “She wouldn’t shovel the snow.”  Another, “He wouldn’t mow the lawn at the parsonage.”

Mowing the lawn and shoveling the snow became a kind of PhD topic for me.  Sometimes I would advocate that the minister did shovel and mow and other times I said, don’t do it.  Why deprive the giver a gift?  Don’t you see how much they love to be invited to read scripture?

One Sunday at Judson, in our now-forgotten grim winter, where the custodian theoretically shovels all the snow, the access-a-ride van couldn’t drop off its passengers for worship.  “Too much snow, they can’t climb over the mound.”  That’s when I decided to skip several after-church meetings and pick up the shovel, which the custodian said had been stolen.  It had.  That’s why I stole one from neighboring NYU.  So many people stopped to help me.  Members and strangers both.  All I had to do was explain that some people couldn’t get in.  People were fighting over the shovel.  Chipping ice has long been one of my favorite definitions of ministry.  When the ice gets really thick, the team really needs to be built.  A little modeling can go a long way.


When the ice is too much and the mound is too high, teach us how to release each other’s gifts.  Amen.

ddauthordonnaschaper.jpgAbout the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest book is Prayers for People Who Say They Can’t Pray.