The Laundromat as Sacred Place
By: Susan Naslund
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
My parents bought their first washing machine in the early 1950’s. At my mom’s request, my dad paid $30 extra for a sunny yellow model instead of plain white. For a young couple just starting out, that was an extravagance. Still, the purchase represented another example of how my mother tried to turn everything she did into a better experience, even the mundane chore of laundry.
When my husband and I began doing laundry together, we did not have the luxury of our own appliances, so we relied on the trips to the local Laundromat. The one near our apartment was dingy, so we turned each washday into a date night by going over the bridge to Coronado Island to use the coin operated machines there. Once the washers were going, we strolled through town, had a cup of coffee and enjoyed the scenery.
One Lenten season when my boys were little, I prayed for a peaceful place to meditate, and our washing machine abruptly broke. Once again, I turned to the neighborhood Laundromat, which quickly became my sacred space. The hum of the washers and dryers provided just the right environment for meeting God as I ruminated over scripture.
During the past seven months, I have been a part of the Institute of Missional Wisdom, a 10-month program that provides laity and clergy with the theological and practical skills needed for starting and leading micro-communities of contemplative prayer and missional action. There are nine of us -- pastors and lay people -- who make up this first ever "cohort" in the California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church. As part of the program, I was required to find a place to allow God to enter into the lives of people in my neighborhood. Of course, it makes complete sense that with my clothes washing history, I should find a way to share peace with others through the simple chore of laundry. I have recently been spending a lot of time in a Laundromat near my house, observing and talking with the people who come there.
I now feel called to begin a ministry at a Laundromat in our Foothills neighborhood. What if we launched the Laundry Love ministry during the next IMPACT Sunday on May 18th? The project would involve collecting quarters from all of you and from my own stash of loose change. Our coins would cover the costs for all the people who entered our adopted Laundromat to wash their clothes that morning! You know, at minimum wage, it takes about an hour’s worth of pay to wash and dry two loads of clothes. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful surprise for the people who did not expect to receive such a gift that day? Start saving your quarters now!
Can you look at the trajectory of your life and see how God might be calling you to be of service using your unique gifts? Please share with me your ideas so that we can be in ministry together. Indeed, God has given us instruction. It is up to us to help bring harmony to areas of unrest and love to those who do not expect it. Surely the God of peace will be with us.