Sunday 26 August 2012
“That which is done for love (though it be little and contemptible
in the sight of the world) becometh wholly fruitful.” So writes the
fifteenth-century German mystic Thomas a Kempis.
St Martin-in-the-Fields has a paid staff of over 75 people. But
its life depends on volunteers. To be a volunteer is a spiritual
discipline. It means to commit yourself to something without the
three reasons why people usually commit themselves to things.
You don’t (1) get a feeling of power, because you don’t get to be
the person who decides how things are done or how they turn out
or in what direction they are fundamentally going. You don’t (2)
get the credit for things if they go well, because you’re almost
invariably behind the scenes. And you don’t (3) receive any tangible
personal benefit, because you’re an amateur, not a paid
And that’s the key word, an amateur. The word amateur has
become almost a term of criticism. To say a piece of work or a
performance is amateurish is to dismiss it as the work of those
who don’t really know what they’re doing. But the meaning of the
word amateur is “someone who does things for love, and for no
thought of reward or credit or outcome.”
The role of volunteers at St Martin’s isn’t so much to do necessary
jobs, true as that is, but to demonstrate to all of us that the
most important things in life are the things we do for love – things
for which we cannot control the outcome, for which we get no
reward, and for which we seek no credit. St Martin’s really is for
lovers, true amateurs, who show what it means to enjoy God in the
small particulars of life.
My prayer is that God may take that love, hidden, uncredited,
unrewarded, and do with it what only God can do: make it wholly
fruitful. Thank you to all St Martin’s volunteers, for making every
small particular of our common life into a new dimension of the
worship of God.
The Revd Dr Sam Wells