LDS congregation members still clean own meetinghouses
16 year old Erik Mollinet vacuums the hall ways of his church. He donates his time so that they can save money on janitorial services. In Layton on January, 31 2014
LDS ward members donate their Saturday morning to clean the church. They enjoy taking to turns to keep the church clean. In Layton on January, 31 2014
LAYTON – It’s Saturday morning and most meetinghouses for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a bustle with congregation members in casual clothes vacuuming the chapel, cleaning bathrooms, scrubbing windows, wiping down doorknobs, and taking out the trash.
For the last several years, members of LDS congregations worldwide have been asked to clean their own buildings, replacing what was once the task of janitors hired by the church. Though meetinghouses still hire out help for repairs, congregation member volunteers do the weekly cleaning.
According to church leaders, the primary purpose of member participation is to benefit and bless all, including the youth and less active by providing opportunities to serve. It also reinforces and deepens respect for the Lord’s houses of worship. It is noted that the opportunity to clean the meetinghouse is not about saving money, but about a spiritual opportunity to show respect to the Lord.
Scott Barben of Kaysville has served with his wife as ward building representatives for nearly two years, helping coordinate the weekly cleaning efforts of congregation members. “I wasn’t excited at first because I knew it was going to take me away from self-employment on Saturday, my busiest day, but then I prayed that I would be able to magnify my calling and my feelings began to change. I began to get a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure out of making sure the house of the Lord was kept up to His standards and when I went into the church on Sunday and saw how clean it was, I felt really good about it and enjoyed giving the service,” Barben said.
With congregation members taking turns in an average-size ward, and if more than one ward attends a building, a congregation member likely only cleans the building once or twice a year. Some wards have sign-up sheets, while other wards assign the responsibility out alphabetically.
When several families show up to help, Barben said it is an easy job, only taking about 45 minutes to clean the entire meetinghouse. However, there were a few occasions when nobody showed and Barben had to clean the building himself, which usually took between two to three hours.
Usually it was the same dozen families that rotated through, Christine Barben pointed out, with others citing conflicts or deciding someone else would take care of it. “I gained a greater appreciation for our church building because I had no idea so much went into cleaning the church until I helped out and could see all of the parts that go into it,” said Barben.
Even more shocking were the congregation members who showed up and thought the opportunity was only for those receiving financial assistance from the ward. “It is an opportunity for everybody — couples, individuals, and families of all different types,” Christine said.
Patty Pepper of the Summerwood Ward in Layton, was recently cleaning at her ward’s building and says the various times she has spent cleaning the church have been positive. “I think it’s an honor right now standing here washing the sacrament trays, bringing me to tears because this is our Heavenly Father’s house and it’s an honor to keep it as clean as possible,” Pepper said. “I think we feel more of a responsibility, appreciate the building more, and are more conscientious of how we leave a building because of this experience.”
While serving with the young women in her ward, Pepper remembers when the girls washed walls inside several of the main rooms in the meetinghouse for an activity. “I didn’t know how they were going to respond when we first got there, but it was neat to see how excited those girls were, singing while washing the walls,” Pepper said.
Scott Barben said he liked cleaning best when the whole family would show up to help clean. “Dad would take some of the small kids and mom would take the others, and I would hear them teach their kids about cleaning the house of the Lord, instructing them to do an extra-special job,” Barben said.