Cleaning Out, Welcoming In
(note: this letter originally appeared in the September Newsletter)
I have been working hard lately to get my office looking like the kind of place people might want to sit and talk to their pastor and hope many of you will do so. It is not done yet, but it might not ever be. It has caused me to reflect on how much stuff accumulates over time. On my shelves, for example, was the detritus of successive generations of pastors. The stuff that was duplicated, out of date, or otherwise not worth moving and was unwanted. Nor did I want most of it. There are other things in my office, mementos of important events in the life of the church, that needs to be moved to a place people can see it.
Lives accumulate stuff. We need to go through it every once and a while to figure out what its worth, if anything. A church building nearly 70 years old accumulates a lot. A church institution nearly 2 centuries old accumulates even more. We stop seeing it after a while. It becomes normal. We need to look at it periodically. See it through the eyes of a newcomer.
What can we do?
Reflect on your own life. What are you holding on to that keeps people on the outside seeing you. What can they not look past? What can you not look past?
Look at the way we conduct church. All the myriad aspects of it. Ask ourselves if this is welcoming, if this helps someone outside of the church come to be part of the church. I have been working on worship, but what else needs to be done?
(not an actual picture of the inside of our church)
Consider the building. Yes, Boys and Girls club will be with us for a while and there are things we will do once they are gone; but there are also things that were here before they came. Look at the library for example. How would a newcomer see it? Can we use the space better? What does and does not belong in that space?
[Stop panicking. I am asking questions for reflection, not making plans. Yet.]
If we are to go beyond where we have been; if we are to follow Christ into the future; if we are going to allow our legacy to be a prelude to new growth and work for the Kingdom of God, then we must make a concerted effort. Each one of us in our own life, all of us in the life of our church.
We need to clean out what no longer serves our purpose so we can welcome in and fulfill that purpose.