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Celebrations, Staff stuff, Wednesday's Whim

Wednesday’s Whim: Doing Dishes

Whim: “sudden idea.”  This weekly post promises a number of things: personal thoughts and reflections, showing off Camp Stevens’ programs and staff, announcements for upcoming opportunities, and answering questions or responding to comments “from the audience.” If you have a topic or question you’d like addressed, just e-mail Beth!



One month ago today I turned into the Camp Stevens driveway with clothes to last me three or four weeks, two cats, two very good friends who road-tripped with me across 2,000 miles of plains, mountains and desert to get here, and no dishes.

What have I done so far?  Dishes.

In her short but wonderful book The Quotidian Mysteries, Kathleen Norris equates daily chores – laundry, dishes, meal preparation – with liturgy.  These things that sometimes seem mundane and annoying become for us the same things that bring us together with one another, provide for much needed contemplation, and offer necessary grounding.

After every Eucharistic celebration, the priest does the dishes right at the alter.  In fact, the act of cleaning is so important that the congregation literally watches it happen.  Doing the dishes at Camp Stevens is one of the most important daily chores.  Dishes level the playing field: everyone does them.  We build community around the Hobart, sharing stories, singing along to loud music, or working silently alongside each other.

For many, dishes and liturgy stir up the same feeling of indifference, but Norris encourages us to see the potential in these routine things.  She writes:

It is a paradox of human life that in worship, as in human love, it is in the routine and the everyday that we find the possibilities for the greatest transformation.  Both worship and housework often seem perfunctory.  And both, by the grace of God, may be anything but.  At its Latin root, perfunctory means “to get through with,”and we can easily see how liturgy, laundry and what has traditionally been conceived of as “women’s work” can be done in that indifferent spirit.  But the joke is on us: what we think we are only “getting through” has the power to change us, just as we have the power to transform what seems meaningless – the endless repetitions of a litany or the motions of vacuuming a floor (p. 82).

In weird and wonderful ways, doing the dishes here at Camp Stevens has been transformative for me.  I have learned about the community as a whole, and learned about folks as individuals.  I have gained a sense of ownership in the kitchen, learning where wooden spoons and giant pans live.  And I have participated in the rhythm of Camp Stevens – the rising and the setting of the sun, if you will.

How have you found the daily – sometimes mundane or annoying – rhythms of life transformative?  What is your favorite dishes memory at Camp Stevens?  Can you relate to the monotony of liturgy or the peace and joy found in its repetition?

Norris, Katheleen (1998).  The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work”.  Paulist Press: New York.



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