Pastoral Perspectives

‘Bee’ a Keeper

Couples around the world just celebrated Valentine’s Day on 14 Feb. Valentine’s Day is celebrated and named after St Valentine, a Roman saint who lived in the 3rd century. He is the patron saint of courtly love, epilepsy sufferers and beekeepers!

Scholars believe beekeeping has been around for many centuries, even as early as 2400 BC in Egypt. Apparently, it is common to find apiaries (beekeeping) in monasteries, convents and missions as part of its curriculum. There could be many benefits attached to beekeeping other than just harvesting honey. As a beekeeper said, “The keeping of bees is very tied to the contemplative”. In this fast-paced world, such slow and quiet work might be hard to come by. And this hobby has made people appreciate God’s design and human responsibility for one another and creation-care. Most of us would have heard the phrase, “If there are no bees, there will be no food” because they are crucial for pollination- an important process in the food production chain. 

Accounts* of the busy yet short life of the bees triggered some thoughts this week. Bees work together in groups and apparently have a language, a dance, a wiggle to tell each other where the flowers and new hives are. In winter they keep warm by beating their wings and to ensure that no one is outside for too long, they take turns. (*sourced from various articles and sites)

It is a valuable lesson on the importance of community and the need to take turns lest we all burn out. It is not uncommon to hear stories of how people eventually burn out because there was no one to rotate with or help them. This reminds us of the structure we have for church leadership (Elders and Deacons) where leaders are elected for a term of 3 years after which they need to rest for a period before they can return to serve. Those who have served for two terms continuously are required to rest longer. This practice is not unique to our church or human beings as we learn from the life of the bees. It reflects the design of our creator and maker who put such things in place. Taking turns refresh one another and keeps the wheel turning.

Romans 12: 5 tells us “So we, though many, are one body in Christ.” It is God’s design that all of us, the church work together as the body of Christ. We all have a part to play however small it be. We might not think much about our role, but it could be a life saver for someone in ministry. It could be as simple as helping to take attendance for the DG for a season; arranging the chairs on a Sunday; volunteering to be teacher assistant in the Sunday School for a term; or even stepping in to clear the holy communion elements after a service. They all contribute to the life of the church.

Not only are bees wonderful example of teamwork, they also teach us about the importance of communication. According to research, a certain dance and a certain wiggle can convey a certain message to one another, and it is crucial for the survival of the whole group. If a wrong message is conveyed, the whole hive could be in trouble. Good communication is key to establishing firm foundations for almost everything like marriages, projects, ministries, DGs, church etc. The only way we can communicate better with one another is to understand each other’s dances and wiggles! How do we do that?

A lot of assumptions can be created when we do not fully understand or know someone well. We could well be interpreting the actions/words in a very different way simply because we do not know the person well. When we get to know each other better, we will be in a better position to not only understand but be able to even tell when help is needed. We live in a community and Christ has commanded us to love one another. Romans 12:10a says “Be devoted to one another in love.”  We cannot love one another if we do not know one another.

Another lesson we can learn from the life of the bees is that they make collective decisions. When a bee returns and dances vigorously, it means they have found a new place to gather the nectar or even a new location to build the hive. Over time, if other bees dance in the same way, they make a collective decision to follow the lead. If the dance dies away over time, a decision is made to go elsewhere. Such is the beauty of collective wisdom. Church leadership makes decision likewise through collective wisdom. This is crucial to the health of the church as each leader is given a chance to voice out their opinions and concerns. Romans 12: 10b says “Honor one another above yourselves”.

And the last lesson we can learn from the bees is that they all work together. There are no consumer bees in the hive so there is shared ownership and responsibility by all the bees. They have different roles and not all the bees do the same job. A beekeeper said, “As a bee develops, they do different jobs. There are nurse bees, housecleaning bees, guard bees, foragers. It’s everybody doing their part and everybody working together in complete harmony.”

No wonder they are called busy bees. Likewise, the health of the church depends on each of us. Scripture tells us that we all have gifts with which we can help one another and build the church. We are all to ‘bee’ each other’s keeper even as we continue to serve Christ through the body of Christ. May we do so to the glory of God from whom all blessings flow!

Romans 12:4-8

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Pr Loliro Sani

February 19, 2023