Harry attended church for the last time on Sunday.  A frail but independent 83 years, given to unexpected fainting and on heavy medication, the doctor decreed it was time to call it quits.  No more would Harry leave his ill wife, board a tram and travel to church.  It was the end of an era for him and the congregation.

It was a special Sunday, of course.  A presentation was made to Harry expressing the gratitude of the people for him and his more than forty years of faithful attendance.  There was a special lunch after the service too.  You see, Harry did more than turn up every Sunday.  He was part of the furniture of the place.  If Harry had not been there, you could safely assume that the Lord had returned and you had missed out.

For as long as anybody could remember, for all of those four and more decades, Harry had always been among the first to arrive at that little old weather board church which was actually younger than him.   He put up the blinds, switched on the heaters in winter, stood on guard in the tiny foyer and handed out the hymn books offering a quiet welcome to everyone.  He was a man of few words but much devotion.  He invariably carried the offering plate during the service and did so again on his last Sunday.

Come the end of the service, he was the one who gathered up the hymn books, stored them away lovingly and then set out switching off the heaters and drawing the blinds for another week.  Without fanfare or a single word, he would simply vanish for the ride home in the tram.

Harry’s name was never on a roster.  With him around, there was no need for one.  If a job had to be done, he did it.  It did not occur to him to wait for someone else to put up their hand.  But he did not offer to participate in a service.  This was not his “thing.”  In fact, he shunned attention and fiercely resisted any initiative which may have cast doubt on his independence.  He had his own unique routine of service and fulfilled it weekly never expecting anybody else to help out.  His was the task of preparing the church for the people to worship.  It was not to be shared with others.

Harry will be missed.  The foyer will seem empty on Sundays now.  After all these years, a roster will have to be made just to make sure that someone is out there welcoming people and handing out the hymn books and then collecting them later.  You can be sure that the heaters won’t always be on at the right time in the winter and you can bet that those hymn books won’t be stored in the same methodical way either.

Harry.  Harry the servant.  Harry, shaking hands on behalf of Jesus, freezing in the foyer on those chilly winter Sundays, making all comers feel at home.  Harry, sometimes taken for granted but always deeply loved.  There are not too many more Harrys out there anymore.  It is sad really.

Now we are down to rosters which are often overlooked or tasks half done because this weekend was not convenient for me.  Or, it is the contract cleaner who is now on the payroll. Instead of Harry beside us, we are increasingly surrounded by prima donnas wanting to be noticed and thanked.  People arrive at church without a thought as to who turned on the heaters or opened the blinds.  This is the consumer faith.  If this service does not meet my needs, I’ll go elsewhere.  Oh, and I won’t be here next week anyway, there’s just so much to do and not enough time to do it.

Please don’t bother me about exercising a ministry.  Our church is just one of many options so you will understand that I cannot commit myself when there are so many balls to juggle.  It is not that I don’t want to be involved; it’s just that I have to be sensible.  I must not spread myself too thinly.  Say that again!  You mean, you want me to hand out hymn books for forty years?  In that drafty little foyer? And open the blinds? And be early in winter to switch on the heaters?  And take up the offering? And put the hymn books away after the service?  You must be out of your mind.

Thanks for your example, Harry.  We are missing you already.