*The tradition of 'washday monday', when all across Britain washing lines would be festooned with newly cleaned clothes drying in the breeze, is long gone. To 25 year olds such a traditional practice is as unfamiliar as church going. Neither fit with how these Generation Y-ers live their lives today and both belong to that category of cultural curiosity we call heritage. Washing and drying towels is just as essential as ever it was; it is how it happens which continues to change. So where does this leave church going?
We have come to realise - too late in some cases - that church going as such is in the category of 'how' when it comes to spiritual laundry; it is not an end in itself, just a means. For too long inherited church has been distracted by this category error. Put simply what really matters is the washing, cleaning and drying, not the time at which it happens, the brand of detergent preferred, the appliance used or whether the washing is pegged out on a line or put through a drier. Clean towels are the goal and the imperative, whereas 10.30 on a Sunday morning sitting in serried ranks at worship is not.
Perhaps every generation has to discover for itself that God is worshipped and glorified as we bring the kingdom of love near. God delights in us being merciful, kind and just; if church going enables us to achieve this then all well and good. If it doesn't it quickly degenerates into becoming a questionable means in search of a dubious end as far as faith is concerned.
Hanging out our washing in public is a very visible and upfront way of being honest about the fact that stuff gets dirty and smelly and needs to be cleaned. It is a real insight of grace. It says this is what life does, this is how life is, so don't pretend otherwise. Coming together as a community of faith which finds its liberating identity in God, sharing our experiences as disciples of Jesus and seeking to align ourselves with God's transformational love at large in the world, is the work of being church. How we do this is up for grabs. Being prepared to hang all this out in public, together, rather than keeping our individual spiritual laundry in the private realm, is the really challenging aspect of being church, and not just for Generation Y.
Those towels drying on the washing line are much more than a curio, they are an invitation and an encouragement to everyone stuck with the dirt and the stink to believe in the fresh skin-close softness of alternative realities. Surely everyone is in sight of such grace?*
to close, a bit of reminiscing with
an ode to the clothesline i found posted by Perovich on photobucket..
'A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.
For then you'd see the "fancy sheets"
And towels upon the line
You'd see the "company table cloths"
With intricate designs.
The line announced a baby's birth
From folks who lived inside -
As brand new infant clothes were hung,
So carefully with pride!
The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed,
You'd know how much they'd grown!
It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.
It also said, "Gone on vacation now"
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, "We're back!" when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way . . .
But clotheslines now are of the past,
For dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess!
I really miss that way of life
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung on the line!'