Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I cleaned the kitchen and mopped the entry and laundry room floors. Then I gave Frodo a much-needed shampoo. I am sitting here soaking wet and reeking of dog but I really want to write this down before I make a Target run. I guess an afternoon of purging the house and scrubbing was not to be.

I've written about this before. "Callings" in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I just reread that post from one and a half years ago and I am amazed at how faithful I sound. I don't feel very faithful right now. In our church we are called to certain positions to do the Lord's work in our wards. It's very organized and practical and it gets the job done. It can also be a stretching experience to accept a calling for which you have very little aptitude, fulfill that calling by trusting in the Lord's help, and receive blessings through it. I do believe in this. I have accepted, nearly unquestioningly, every calling that's been extended to me. I have not always had the best attitude about my callings, but I've worked at them. I have put in effort, and I've nearly always felt that I have either been blessed myself or been able to help someone else through my calling.

I do not feel that about my present calling, to the extent that I can honestly say that I wish I had never accepted it. I don't remember ever feeling this before. For those of you who don't know, I am ward activities co-chair. That means that another member of our ward and I plan and coordinate activities for our ward. We have potlucks every month. We did a big Christmas party--you probably remember me kvetching about that. We have a Valentine's dance Friday that we have to help with. I am currently organizing dinner groups.

This calling has made me dislike ward activities even more than I did before, which I did not think possible. I do not like large groups. Or rather, I dislike groups of ward-activity size. I can enjoy enormous, anonymous celebrating on a large scale, and I love small groups like our book group. I have taken my children to some activities in the past because they love them. But I would rather do just about anything else. More important than my own likes or dislikes, this calling has made me doubt that the effort put into these activities is worth the gain, not just for me but for anyone. Many people thanked me for the work I did on the Christmas party, and I'm glad so many people enjoyed it. But to be perfectly honest, I still wish I had not done it. It was not worth the agony.

And not only have I started doubting the benefits of ward activities, I've started to take a hard look at other programs in the Church and wonder if they are necessarily worth it. I know that some are, of course. It's just that the experience of having this calling has made me question, doubt, and wonder if a way that I never would have expected.

Last night at book group someone mentioned that in Arizona they are trying a two-hour Sunday block. The "Sunday block" is three hours for most members (although I know they've done 2 hr blocks or less for small branches). It's a 1 hr 15 minutes sacrament meeting and the rest of the time divided between Sunday school and either Relief Society, priesthood meeting, Young Women, Young Men, or Primary. Has anyone heard about a 2-hr Sunday block in Arizona?


Mama Ava said...

I agree, Calandria, that God calls us out of our comfort zones to serve Him and to grow. But I don't think he calls us to be resentful. Does that mean you need to pray and reflect more so you can change? Or do you move on (if that's possible in your structure) to something that is still a challenge, yet a better fit for who you are?

I remember a few people in college who desperately wanted to go to seminary to become pastors and thinking that they were so ill-suited to the position. But somehow they felt that that was their calling and they were going to pray and work themselves into that role. I try to remember that God also created me the way I am for a purpose, and try to keep a balance between change and celebrating who I am right now.

Good luck!

Cocoa said...

Do have to have ward activities every month? When we were called at the end of December our bishop told us they only wanted one activity every other month and we didn't need to have dinner with any of them. We were so glad to hear that! We are like you. We do not like going to the Ward "Choke and Pukes" as DH calls them.

Maybe you are doing too much or not delegating enough. Do you have a committee or is it just the two of you?

Here are some articles we found helpful in learning about what it meant to 'magnify' our calling as ward activity co-chairs. (I think working with my spouse has helped a great deal too).
Questions and Answers
O Be Wise

I think several of the church's programs were put into place because members/families/parents weren't doing what they should be doing. I, for one, don't see the reason really for Scouting. Thank goodness I don't have to deal with it for another seven years!

I haven't heard of the two-hour church block in AZ. The two branches in our stake do have the two hour blocks however. I think it would be wonderful!

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth--I think ward activity chair would be my absolute least favorite calling. We go to all the activities, but really don't enjoy them. Too many kids running around crazy, always wondering how the food was prepared or what's in it (bleck!), and the biggest one to me: Too much time, effort and money for someone to go through so we can all eat lukewarm ham, cold beans and store bought pumpkin pie.

My next least favorite calling? Enrichment leader, which I did for a year and was no good at. I can't please all those crafty women.

I love being in primary. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree. Thankfully our branch only has activities every quarter. They are pretty well attended, but the women and men who set up everything and take down everything never enjoy themselves and it is so much work. We had the most beautiful Christmas program ever, but everyone was stressed and so busy. I think that the best calling would be to pick out the hymns every week, that and doing music in primary is pretty sweet.

Michelle said...

I think that some non-trivial proportion of callings is based on ward needs more than bishopric inspiration. When I have been in callings that require me to search out revelation for who to ask for, there were a few different kinds of answers that I would get. A definite yes or no and a "this person would be just fine" (as would a number of other people in the ward). Sometimes, we would staff a position based out of desperation.

I think that the bishopric is of course entitled to inspiration in how they choose to staff the ward. But, at the same time, all bishoprics can and do make mistakes. And once a person has accepted a calling and been serving, there are often bureaucratic and momentum issues in shifting people around that may lead to stagnancy.

I think that part of our sustaining the bishopric is not just accepting the callings they give us, but actively finding out for ourselves that it is a good place for us to serve (for whatever reasons--whether to stretch us, or to grow our talents), perhaps saying no at times, and being willing to perhaps serve for a season, and then request a change if it seems needful and wise to do so. I personally would err on the side of caution in making a request to be released, and would need to feel strongly about it, but I think that we can bring information to the bishopric that they may not understand or realize to help them make their decisions. But, I am coming to believe more and more in the role of our personal agency to understand God's will and take action based on what we feel rather than basing our actions and reactions so much on others' opinions (and even authority). Choose to act, and not be acted upon, I say.

As to your concerns about the general structure of the activities arm of the ward: you are in a prime position to make changes! Can you talk to your bishopric member about your concerns? Do you think that they would be amenable to some different ways of doing things?

I am not trying to advocate bucking the system for the mere sake of doing so, and hope it doesn’t come off that way. I am just thinking out loud about trusting our hearts and feelings, about seeking out personal revelation, and being willing to push back if it seems like that is what we need to do.

Calandria said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments and extremely helpful suggestions! I knew it wasn't a mistake to post this. I appreciate so much your thoughtful, insightful comments.

Mama Ava, that is such an interesting idea to "balance" improving yourself with being "celebrating" who you are in the moment. I thought I had a handle on my balance issues, but now I have a new horizon. :-) I have prayed about this and reflected so much already and I'm not sure I've had a good answer. Or maybe my answer was to write about it so I could get this helpful feedback? I don't know.

Cocoa, we do have potlucks (a "linger longer" after church) every fourth Sunday and also bimonthy activities. I tried to cut it back to 3 activities and also tried to reduce the number of potlucks, but met with significant resistance. Maybe I need to be more forceful. I'm discovering that more people in our ward feel as I do--that so many activities is huge overkill. Potlucks are a big deal in our ward. Our sacrament meeting attendance is significantly higher on those Sundays. (Personally I don't know why we want people to come to church if it's only for the food.) Also, there are people in the ward who really, REALLY look forward to this potluck every month. I know because they are very vocal about it. The problem is, the same people bring food month after month. It gets old. We do have a committee of sorts but haven't had much luck with delegating things to them. So far, it's been my fellow co-chair and I doing everything. Cocoa, don't get me started about Scouting. :-/ Thanks for the links--I will check them out.

Dina, my thoughts exactly. I love being in Primary too, though Primary president wasn't my favorite. Guess what I was fondly remembering last night? When Deb G. and I had that crazy Sunbeam class. Remember that boy who punched Deb in the nose? That's where the fun is.

Ave, that would so rock to pick out the hymns every week. The lady who has done it in our ward for years never picks my favorites.

Michelle, I love what you say here. I have had the same experiences when submitting names. I agree with everything you've said and I especially like this: "I am coming to believe more and more in the role of our personal agency to understand God's will and take action based on what we feel rather than basing our actions and reactions so much on others' opinions (and even authority). Choose to act, and not be acted upon, I say." That is so wise. That's what we're all doing here in the first place. We're here to learn how to use our free agency wisely. I want to be proactive. I really hate this "victim" feeling. It is, as Mama Ava says, resentful.

Maybe I should approach the bishopric again about reducing the number of activities. If they really and truly can't stand the thought of that, maybe they will start to think this isn't the right calling for me and should find someone less "activity-challenged."

Gabriela said...

Once again, I appreciate your honesty.

Your calling would be a nightmare for me as well. It's hard to give so much attention to something you don't think is worthwhile. My most challenging calling that way was in Venezuela-I was called to be the YW president shortly after we arrived and I didn't speak Spanish. The girls were brats, one of my (assigned to me) counselors was brattier. For an entire year, every time a classroom door would open I would say a prayer that it was someone from the bisporric coming to call me out to release me. Awful.

As for ward activities, I'm not a huge fan-especially ones that require SO much effort. I think they can be beneficial for people who maybe need a church setting where they can socialize that's not Sunday meetings. My kids loved activites in Mex. City because it gave them a chance to be with other LDS kids their age that they wouldn't have seen otherwise. But that said, each ward has different needs and that's what prayer and revelation is for.

It's your calling and therefore you are entitled to recieve inspiration about it. If you are having all of these thoughts, I really think you should talk to your bishop. It's a great time right now in the church for you to approach your bishop with your concerns. Read Elder Oaks talk from Oct. Conference (I think Elder Ballard had a no-nonsense talk on the subject last April-but I am not certain about that one). Alos-from what I understand the worldwide training meeting last week was on the same subject-not bogging poeple down with useless activities and meetings.

Lol about people only coming to church for food. That has been my life the last 7 years!!!

Gabriela said...

ps- I love your kitchen!

Calandria said...

Gabriela said...
ps- I love your kitchen!

Thank you! It's nothing fancy. We painted it a few years ago. Here are the before and after photos (wish I could figure out hyperlink in the comments):

Gabriela, we have yet another thing in common. When I lived in Venzuela I had an obnoxious calling, too. I was called as a counselor in the primary presidency and the rest of the presidency hated my guts.

Thanks for the idea about using Elder Oaks' conference talk and the WW training. When I first heard his talk last fall I was like, "Yes!" But it didn't occur to me that it was my responsibility to act on it. I considered it a bishopric responsibility or stake. Isn't that weird? What was i thinking?

Mama Ava said...

This was a very serious, interesting, thought-provoking post.

So why am I helplessly giggling every time I read the word "bishopric"? It always gets me!

Calandria said...

Hahahah! That is so funny, Mama Ava! That had never struck me before but now it sure does. Bishopric! I must admit we have funnier Mormon jargon. Like people used to be either "active" or "inactive" Mormons, as in "practicing" or "non-practicing." Now we call the inactives "less active." It cracks me up every time. We are so pc now that we wouldn't want to hurt someone's feelings by calling them "inactive," no, they're just "LESS active."

Auntie Lee said...

At Christmas time I had to go to church 4 times a week for about three weeks leading up to Christmas. When it finally got here I was sick of going to church. Many complained about that so we are now combining activities more with YM/YW (we have no primary but otherwise we would do that to).
People have to realize that if you have teens than you go to church for YM/YW activities every week along with church. If you have Relief Society there are added activities and don't forget the scouts. This is all without the extra ward/branch activities. I go regularly 2 times a week and twice a month 3 times a week. If there is a branch activity its stretching it.

Years ago it was explained to me that church auxiliaries existed for the soul purpose of supporting the family. If your at church every day there is no time for family?

I don't really know what ward activities coordinator is (our branch is to small for that) but it seems to me that 'coordinate' is the focus word. All of the other auxiliaries need to have activities so let them do the work. You just have organize the different groups and trust that they will do their callings as well.

athena said...

i use to be in charge of ward activities (long time ago). i did not like that calling one bit.

Dezze Em said...

Ever notice at those council meetings, it's all the women who are saying "NO MORE!" And the men who stack up the calendar. Unfortunately, the women are outnumbered at least 2-1. I constantly feel like the voice of negativity. But when I talk to other women I find that we usually are on the same page. Keep bucking the trend! We are behind you.