Grocery Shopping and the Pastoral Work Ethic

Since my retirement I do most of the grocery shopping at our house, and this is a big switch. Kathleen gives me a list and often says, “make sure you get exactly what I’ve written down.” She may underline this by saying, “If you can’t find exactly what’s on the list don’t bring anything.”

Then, every two or three weeks she goes with me on a special mission to stock up on items she wants to select herself. On those occasions she gives me a list of staples to gather up while she scouts the store.

She’s a better shopper than I because she’s been doing this for most of our 63 years of married life. I’m relatively new at this household chore because when I was serving as a pastor and later a bishop I made it a point to avoid grocery stores during daytime hours.

I said to myself: at three in the afternoon my parishioners aren’t free to slip away from their office or their construction job to pick up a dozen eggs and a bottle of milk; shouldn’t I be as diligent about my work as they are about theirs?

I would allow for exceptions if there were an emergency, as any other professional would. But Kathleen and I were in agreement about the important work I had been called to do and we would avoid breaks from the routines for what might seem to be unnecessary interruptions.

During those pastoral days Kathleen would occasionally say to me over lunch, “Rev. So-and-so was pushing a grocery cart in the store at ten this morning.” I would wonder to myself, what would people say if they had seen the CEO of the factory in our town shopping for groceries at that hour? Or the principal of the school our children attend? They’re expected to be at their jobs.

Later, in 1974 when we were assigned to move from the USA to Canada to give oversight to the church here, it was a new situation. The Board of Administration bought a house with two large finished basement rooms. This house was to be our home, and until more permanent office arrangements were made the basement would provide a room for a secretary and a larger area as my work space.

After a couple of weeks of miscellaneous chores — purchasing office furniture, arranging for telephone service, choosing paint colors, and otherwise settling both house and office — I gave full attention to my new assignment.

At first Kathleen would occasionally come to the head of the stairs and ask if I could come up and hang a picture or give my opinion on some wallpaper. I explained that I was now on the job and if my office were across town I would have to wait until evening to meet her requests.

We laugh even yet when we remember her unexpected response. The mental picture of my office being across town from our home registered. She was okay with it. So, usually at eight o’clock in the morning I would stand at the head of the stairs leading down to the work area and announce, “I’m going to work now.” She would come running from elsewhere and with mock seriousness kiss me goodbye — as if I were leaving for Alaska.

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2 thoughts on “Grocery Shopping and the Pastoral Work Ethic

  1. Oh, the adjustments of having the “workplace” in our home! Thanks for the reminder of “time-use integrity” needed in the positions of ministry. And you finally did contrive a way to get a daily good-bye kiss from your wife! BobMcD

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