The yellow benchIn the May Our Life Together (OLT) planning meeting, it was recommended that the Rev. Dave Marty and I (chair and vice chair, respectively) would make a brief announcement during the Indiana Annual Conference clergy session in June about OLT – to mention our online survey, as well as mention 2013’s OLT date, venue and theme.

Our theme for OLT 2013 is “Self Care and Sabbath” – and our visual image is a yellow park bench on a busy street. Saturday evening prior to Annual Conference, Dave Marty and I thought it would be an interesting visual to have a yellow park bench from which to make our announcement. I said, “I’ll get a yellow park bench.”

I thought – Saturday night – need a yellow park bench in Indianapolis next Wednesday. Mmnnn, need a plan and so I took this vision to the congregation. During announcements Sunday, I gave my plea to the 152 worshipers in attendance and asked if someone had a park bench they would loan. I promised it would be returned to them if they would allow us to paint it yellow. But I needed the bench that day!

Following worship, I had two offers of benches. I accepted the first. The lay leader approached me after worship and said, “Well, where do I pick up the bench? And when do we get started on it?” We picked up the bench that afternoon. It was an older metal bench, which was comfortable to sit on. It also was multi-layered and multi-colored with at least four different colors and coats of paint.

The work on the bench began Monday with two electric sanders, a lot of elbow grease and sweat equity. It was fun, enterprising and Spirit-driven, God was in the details.

Tuesday, we began to paint it with primer and then two coats of yellow paint. We hung it in the sun in the doorway of a farm shed for sun drying. The bench received a touch up Wednesday and was loaded in the lay leader’s truck for transport to the Indiana Convention Center. We located the correct entrance and transported the transformed park bench on a golf cart to the “green room” for Dave’s and my brief announcement during the clergy session.

At the close of the session, the yellow bench was returned to its owner, in front of a family cottage and guess the color of the cottage? You’re right – yellow! And the same shade of yellow the bench became. Do we ever doubt God is in the details of our lives and our ministries? The Holy Spirit located a bench for our announcement, and then the transformed bench ended up coordinating with the yellow cottage on its return.

When we take care of ourselves and seek Sabbath – part of it, I believe, is using our creativity and wherewithal, involving others in this creativity and journey. It also is part of ministry. God wants us to work hard, but to have fun doing it.

The park bench will come back to my home at the close of summer. On that June third Sunday morning, I also asked if we could again borrow the bench in February 2013 for Our Life Together. So, in February, the yellow bench will be making another trip to Indianapolis, to St Luke’s United Methodist Church this time. I ask the clergy of our conference, will you consider making the trip too?

Our Life Together, St. Luke’s, Indianapolis, Feb. 25-26 with the theme: “Self Care and Sabbath.” This time of spiritual refreshment and nourishment is being designed with the clergy of Indiana in mind. Come sit on our bench.

Mary van Wijk serves as pastor of the Remington United Methodist Church and vice-chair of the Our Life Together conference-wide retreat for clergy.