Good work

A tale of two buildings

I am part of a guided meditation group that meets monthly at my church. Each month the week prior to our gathering, Ellie sends an e-mail message to the regular attendees, reminding them of the meditation time and requesting an RSVP. 

Last fall was a particularly busy time for one of our regulars. He replied to Ellie’s message from a business trip in another country to let her know that he was travelling and in and out of meetings. His message showed his stress and preoccupation with the busy-ness of his life. 

Ellie responded saying, “Sorry to hear that you can’t make it. But wherever you are, right now, take three deep breaths.” A short time later, she received a reply: “I did what you said. I stopped and took three deep breaths. You know, the building I’m in is really beautiful.” 

Three deep breaths cannot solve the busy-ness of our lives or all our problems, but taking the time for three deep breaths recentres us and recharges us to get through it. While we do that, we take time to notice the beauty in our surroundings. 

Photo by Nathan Donoghue


That same month I spent an afternoon with a visitor from British Columbia. We drove around to see the highlights of the city and enjoy the changing leaves. Toward the end of the afternoon, I drove him to the train station so that he could make his way on to Toronto, and to do so, I had to drive right past my church. 

As we approached Trinity I said, “Pretty soon we’re going to drive by my church. Some people think that it’s not an attractive building. It’s a renowned architectural wonder, but not really very attractive.”  We drove by Trinity and my friend reacted honestly. He said, “My God, that is an ugly building.” 

“Maybe,” I said. “But it’s a beautiful place.” 


It’s what’s inside that counts

Sometimes I sit at the back of the ugly beautiful place and look around. As I do, I see person after person that I admire. I think, “I just love her. She drives for Meals on Wheels.” Or, “I just love him. He’s been a Scout leader for years.” And, “I just love her. She volunteers at Centre 507.”  

As I look around I see people who volunteer at centres for seniors, homework clubs, and breakfast programs. I see hockey coaches, baseball coaches, hospital visitors, and Girl Guide Leaders. It seems to me as I look around that I am sitting in an epicentre for good. These people spend their days doing good for others and it seems like they gather once a week at a recharge centre. They come to replenish themselves so they can get back out there. 

When faith communities act as recharge centres for good work for others, things really start to click.

You sense the synergy. You sense the selflessness. 

It’s when people in faith communities try to make the experience all about themselves, or what they want, or what to believe, that things start to go wrong. You can sense that, too, the minute you walk in the door. 

I know I’m not alone in this feeling of being part of a recharge centre, an epicentre for good. There is so much good faith out there. 

Sit at the back of your faith building. Take three deep breaths. Whether your building is ugly or beautiful, make the good works of your community permeate out into the world.

2 thoughts on “Good work

  1. Jennifer

    Hi Arlene

    I suffer from stained glass envy. When I enter a church that has soaring windows, fantastically coloured windows I long for such windows in our beloved church. Please let me sit in a church with the sun streaming in, delighting us. But that wouldn’t be our church, with our cherished congregation. I could find a church run riot with coloured windows but the trade-off wouldn’t be worth it. Ugly as our church may be, it does hold what is wonderful – people I love who inspire, comfort, challenge, energize, amuse. It is the colours of spirit radiating from the people, penetrating the ugly walls and shining from the inside to the outside that makes it beautiful. But maybe just a little window….

    1. Arlene Post author

      Maybe someday our stained glass window will come. In the meantime, you’re right. What wonderful colours of spirit we have radiating from the people.


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