Christmas Eve Service Takes On New Meaning

8:00 am on Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve this year our family participated in a different kind of “Church Service”. Apparently, a few months back Mr. MoSop signed us all up for the weekly wardhouse cleaning detail. He felt it would be “a great chance for us to give a gift to Jesus on Christmas”. This blog post gives the lowdown on our non-traditional Christmas “gift-giving” experience – with a few “tips” thrown in for future participants.

First, a little history. In 1999 Church headquarters instituted the “Meetinghouse Care Program“. Up until that point, at least for as many years as I could remember, all meeting houses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had employed janitors to keep everything spic ‘n span. The new program eliminated full-time janitors and requested that “members assume a greater responsibility for cleaning and caring for Church meetinghouses.” All the lay membership would now take turns assuming “KP” duty each Saturday morning. And, here is the reason why:

"Eternal Rewards" Await You In the Custodial Closet!

“the meetinghouse care program is simple. Members of the Church are invited to participate in the cleaning of their buildings in such a way that, by their sacrifice, they will come to honor and respect and love these beautiful houses of worship.” – Bishop H. David Burton

Flash forward twelve years to Christmas Eve. Mr. Mo had ensured our family “accept the invitation” to participate in the meetinghouse cleaning program. Bless his heart. How could I honestly argue with that? I initially wondered how my daughters would react having to get up before first light on a holiday to go clean the church? Well, I shouldn’t have doubted them. To the girls credit, they got up, dressed, and were ready to go on time with very minimal grumbling. I have to admit it was ME who ended up being the crankiest about giving up my chance to either sleep-in-or-go-last-minute-shopping that morning. Thankfully, I repented of my less-than-charitible attitude. The entire experience was actually a very rewarding one for our whole family. So, naturally I’m blogging about it. Here are some photos I took from the event (of course, I couldn’t resist taking my camera), along with a few random tips/ideas/impressions thrown in for anyone who may be facing “wardhouse cleaning program duty” in the future.

1. Do not arrive 4 minutes late. If so, you will be the last of the group to enter the building, and therefore by default assigned the most undesirable chore(s) which include scrubbing all of the toilets and urinals in the building.

“The most important thing to understand is that this program was not primarily instituted to save money. This is a program to develop personal character and receive eternal blessings.” – Bishop Burton

I’m banking on earning double eternal rewards points for the scrubbing of church toilets & urinals. What do you think?

"You look like a pink nightmare" - Dad to Ralphie in A Christmas Story

2. Read Instructions – this might help you avoid that moment of awkward silence when you suddenly realize that your fellow KP workers also realize you did not read the instructions.

Oops

3. A note for saving time and much future frustration: That strange little gray-plastic-toy-looking-thing with the squiggly lines hanging on a small nail in the back of the custodial closet? It is not a missing piece to Papa Smurfs puzzle. It is actually the “KEY” to open up the empty toilet paper roll dispensers so that you can refill them!

{*cue heavenly angel choir sound*}

“This Is A Dispenser Key!”

4. Dear Brothers and Sisters: if the custodial closet happens to be out of a certain cleaning item – such as toilet bowl cleaner for example- please do not interpret that as a good excuse  to mean you do not need to scrub any of the toilets that particular week, or subsequent weeks, and to keep passing the buck waiting until the “next week” when toilet cleaner might potentially or never arrive. I know it’s a novel idea, but how about actually going back to your house to fetch some of that extra toilet bowl cleaner you have in your basement 2-year-supply, and then set to work scrubbing off the months-old grime that has built up on the church toilet bowls? (P.S. I left the bottle in the closet for all those assigned to next Saturday’s KP. You’re welcome)

Church Custodial Closet

5a. Regarding urinals that have not been scrubbed for at least a month: No, that is not a “hard water stain” down there! And, Yes, it WILL eventually come off after some extra energetic scrubbing and a lot of shouting of the “Jingle Bells” lyrics! [..."Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."]

(I have spared you the photos here. . . ewwww)

5b. A potty poem: While we are still on the subject of “scrubbing toilets for Jesus”, I would personally love to see this classic childhood poem taped to every meetinghouse restroom stall;

“If You Sprinkle When You Tinkle

Be A Sweetie, and Wipe The Seatie

Who knows? We could start a whole church “cleaning revolution”  – maybe the nursery folks could even set it to a catchy tune for us?! . . . OK. Maybe not. But, it’s a thought.

Still a "pink nightmare", but a lot Cleaner!

6. If you sign up, please show up! Thank you to all my fantastic fellow ward members who did show up! [no surprise, of course, since my ward really knows how to serve] Because, let’s face it. No one wants to be stuck cleaning a big building all by themselves all day – even [especially] if it is the House of the Lord. So, the more hands we’ve got working, then the faster everything gets done and the sooner everyone gets to go home (not to mention the more cool people you get to hang out and laugh with).

Many Hands Make Light Work

7. Bring a boombox, and crank up the tunes! Hey, when else will you ever get to sing “Jingle Bells” or “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” at the top of your lungs in the church restroom (without embarrassing yourself or risking having the cops called) ?

Mr. MoSop caught in the act of cranking up the tunes!

8. Industrial vacuums are fun. Come early to stake your claim on one.

Does he get this excited to vacuum at home, Sister H?

9. If you volunteer to clean the chapel, you also might get to be entertained by the ward choir practicing for the Christmas program (which is much preferable than having to hear that crazy woman down the hall shouting out “Jingle Bells” from inside the men’s bathroom)

Holy Housekeeping

10. Bring a camera to document your day of service so you can blog about how much fun it was.

Scrubby Buddies - "We finished in less than 2 hours!"

"Why are you in here taking our photos instead of cleaning, Sister MoSop?

Surprizingly, cleaning the wardhouse on Christmas Eve was quite fun, in a strange mash-up of “It’s-A-Wonderful-Life/High School-Musical-We’re-all-in-This-Together” sort-of way. I do know everyone worked very hard together and did a lot of helping, smiling, and joking (ok, I did not smile when I was scrubbing the urinals – but there may have been several jokes later on). We definitely all took “ownership” of our church building, and we left with a special pride in knowing that when our fellow brothers and sisters would arrive the next morning for their Christmas-day Sabbath service, they would be walking down the halls we had vacuumed, and sitting in the pews we had polished, and using the commodes we had…well, you get the idea… and they would be enjoying a building literally reflecting our mantra that “cleanliness is next to godliness”. I think it’s safe to say we all left with a new respect for our church building, as well as extra respect for all those members who would be emptying the trash bins and scrubbing the toilets next week. We also appreciated the fact that, thanks to everyone willingly “accepting the invitation to serve”, our turn for the Meetinghouse Care Program won’t come around again for at least another year or so.

Clean Crib = Eternal Rewards

Merry Christmas, Jesus! Your crib is clean.
With Love, The MP2 Ward, MoSop, and Family

All Is Calm, All Is Bright

______

27 thoughts on “Christmas Eve Service Takes On New Meaning

  1. Well done! :) And…a nice documentation of your service! Our turn happened to be the previous weekend and….bathrooms, too. It was nice to have several people show-up to help – who hadn’t actually been assigned that week. As I scrubbed I was reminded of the blessing it is to have such nice buildings to meet in. It’s humbling, isn’t it, to stop and actually notice the beautiful buildings that provide us modern conveniences and ways in which to meet, connect and learn. Blessings to you and yours! We appreciate all you do!

  2. It really is true that if you and your children help clean the Lord’s House together you all take more pride in having the Lord’s House looking the way it should. We are serving here in Brasil and have to hold some meetings on Sat. and there are always lots of families there to get the building ready for Sunday. They are always happy.

  3. Thanks for this blog, [MoSop]. I do think it’s a great way to bless your and your children’s lives. We haven’t done it for several months, and i noticed the toilets are starting to get a water line. Are those two facts connected? :)

  4. We are the cleaning supervisors in the Temple. It is something I love to remind the helpers. . . that like Mary who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair, rarely do we have an opportunity to directly serve HIM. We serve his children (our brothers and sisters) all the time and in doing, serve him, but when we clean HIS house, that is the closest we can get. What a delightful documentation, thanks.

    Oh, and once after we had cleaned on a Saturday, on Sunday I had my then four-year-old granddaughter on my lap. I don’t recall how the conversation came up, but she wanted to know who cleaned up the church when it was messy, I told her that the day before Ahmpa and I had helped. She put her hands on my cheeks and said, “Thank you”. It touched me. It is appreciated.

  5. on the “but how about actually going back to your house to fetch some of that extra toilet bowl cleaner you have in your basement 2-year-supply, ” – Most areas do not allow the cleaners to be brought from home. Only church provided cleaners – it’s an OSHA thing and a health thing. The church needs to control what is used to clean so it can control the ‘poisons’ coming into the church.
    Otherwise – great post

    • Mitch, yes, that sounds likely. Good point. I certainly did not intend to promote lawless behavior or anarchy (and we definitely want to avoid “poisonings”). :) The janitorial supplier in our area is having a difficult time keeping our closet stocked properly. Aparently it has been an ongoing problem according to a former bishop who was cleaning with us that day. To clarify: “I received permission from a bishopric member to retrieve the toilet cleaner. And, anyone facing a similar conundrum should definitely do the same.” Thanks! MoSop

  6. Our family signed up to clean our building on the 24th too. My wife and I work in the Temple on Saturdays, so we don’t get a chance most of the time to serve by cleaning our building. Since the Temple was closed on the 24th we decided to get our family involved since most were here for the holidays. We had a good time and it only took us a little over an hour to do a pretty thorough cleaning.

  7. I recently was released from a two-year stint as the coordinator for our ward’s building cleaning efforts. We share a stake center with two other wards and have cleaning responsibilities four months out of the year, and December is one of our months.
    Last year Christmas day was on Saturday, our usual day for cleaning, and for various reasons cleaning on Friday eve was not a good option, so we opted to do the clean-up in the afternoon and asked people to come in and give Christ a gift after their Christmas exchanges had slowed down for the day.

    Watching the cars roll up into the snowy parking lot and disgorging families ready to clean and polish was touching. We had over thirty people in the building and the cleaning took less than an hour. My bride and I were forced to be very creative in sub-dividing the assignments so that all had meaningful work to accomplish, but our hearts soared as we saw all of these people digging in to do this work.

    Christmas day cleaning is out of the ordinary, but our experiences in cleaning our building over the years have been wonderful. We have had sign-up sheets going round in the ward the week before an assignment and have never had fewer than five families join us for the work. We have never taken more than an hour and a quarter to complete the work.

    When we got the assignment from our Bishop, it was one of those “Oh No, why me?” moments, but as the months passed and I got to know my brethren & sisters’ personalities and strengths and spirits it became one of my most cherished callings. I shed tears when I got my release. Believe it or not, you can grow closer to your friends and to your God on the business end of a broom or a toilet bowl cleaner than any other way I have found, and I have had experience in most of the callings that a person can get in this church.

    Thank you for your posting and invitation to read your blog. Also, may you have the blessing of eventually sharing in the blessings and joy of being responsible for caring for uour Lord’s house.

    Rod Johnson
    Hayden, Idaho

  8. Our ward hadn’t had much success with people signing up; our congregation has many single sisters and the congregation has more senior members. Younger families tend to have small children that can pose a particular challenge on cleaning day. So a few months ago, the ward adapted the assignment by quorums and groups balanced by every other month sharing with another ward. Each group knows which Saturday is assigned to that group and they solicit volunteers accordingly. It as proven to be more successful than before because more people show up and it takes less time, and there tends to be a better spirit about this assignment. My first time cleaning some years ago was frustrating. There were specific instructions on what to use where, but bottles wouldn’t spray as directed and labels weren’t clear. The mop and bucket used for the floors was like trying to steer the USS Enterprise for the sisters. Some couples came expecting someone to be there to open the outside door but nobody with a key came, so they finally left in frustration. Each ward needs someone assigned as the coordinator to make sure everybody knows what is expected, where the necessary supplies and tools are, and who makes sure the doors are open. On RS days, one husband is asked to be there as well. I liked this blog entry and hope that spirit can spread.

    • Gail, you bring up a lot of excellent points! Every congregation will definitely have unique challenges that need to be handled creatively. It sounds like yours has found a good workaround. (loved your Star Trek reference!) :) The big rolling bucket for our building has gone AWOL (along with several other things). It was definitely an “adventure” getting the floors properly mopped and washed without it. I think our comment trail has reached a good consensus here that to have a fully successful wardhouse service project we need three major components:

      1. PEOPLE to show up
      2. PRODUCTS / SUPPLIES to complete the project and
      3. A COORDINATOR

      It appears that one or more components may be missing for many.

      May the Force be with us! (mixed movie metaphor alert)

  9. I had a few laughs reading this, mostly because I too, was cleaning the ward building on Christmas Eve day LOL! I figured I’d volunteer ourselves since we weren’t going out of town this year, thinking we’d be alone but there were 3 others as well as the Missionaries who did a fantastic job of teaching my kids a few basketball moves before we left for the day. By the looks of the custodial closet photo, things are indeed the “same in church wherever you go”! And thanks for the tip on the key, I’ll have to look for that next time!

    • Nice to hear from you, Erin! I imagine there were quite a lot of fellow Saints across the globe cleaning meetinghouses on Christmas Eve. Glad you had several others there to help out. Playing a little BBall with the missionaries sounds fun! – MoSop

  10. I have cleaned the church for almost 14 years in the mission field as a part time custodian for the church until 2010 when the church custodian positions were discontinued.
    I have found that I now volunteer to clean the rr when my times comes around to help with other members to clean the church building. I know how to do it physically and mentally. Don’t think about it; just do it.
    I did gain a great love for the building and my children gained a great respect for the care of the building, too.
    And what great exercise, too. All the way around, you are blessed.

  11. Loved your sweet thoughts on the cleaning…you gave me reflection and giggles!! We were just ahead a few weeks..and yes I was the last one and I had the not so fun bathrooms!!!!Thanx for your posts…love you..wish you lived in my ward!

  12. Pingback: Mormons Believe in Work and Self-Reliance | Mormon Women - About LDS Life and Belief

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