There’s this cabinet in my house. It’s supposed to be a hallway linen closet, but we use it for other ‘stuff’ that doesn’t belong anywhere else. Faced with the prospect of moving and packing all our earthly belongings, I dreaded this small space more than any other in the house. It’s not a very large area, as storage goes… but, well, it’s the place that has the pictures. Boxes. Andboxes. Of pictures.
Remember film? Remember going to that junior high youth lock-in, or that high school dance competition, or on that college road trip and taking, like, two whole roles of film? Which you had to get developed IN ITS ENTIRETY in order to find the two decent images you managed to capture? And chances are, you took advantage of the ‘free doubles’ option at Walgreens.
So just to do the math… 24 pics a roll, two prints each; multiply this by, say, 12 rolls of film in a year, by about 16 years…yeah, that’s what I had in boxes in my closet. Boxes.ANdboxes.Andboxes.
And I swore–nay, I VOWED–that when I moved again, it would be with ONE BOX of pictures. Several hours later, that’s exactly what I had. One box of old pics. All my more recent images are saved everywhere from Facebook to Snapfish to the Cloud…all there for my access–and even printing–if ever I get the urge.
Remember hand-written notes? I’ve also got a LARGE box of those to go through before I head east. Meanwhile, I noticed a funny thing at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (DOC) this week: there is a large bulletin board placed in the registration area that says ‘notes.’ This is where you can leave a message for that old camp friend, college professor, or former pastor and let them know that you are around, and would love to catch up with them. At assemblies past, this board has been full to overflowing with little scraps of paper. “I’m at the _____ hotel in room ___. Call me!”
This year I noticed that, rather than 500+ little notes tacked up on that board, there were more like 5. Because the truth is, you are probably connected with that old camp friend/college professor/former pastor on Facebook/Email/Twitter. You have anywhere from 5 to 500 friends in common, and #YoumightbeaDisciple if you spent the better part of the business sessions texting them about plans for later. ‘Meet me for dinner when this session is over.” (two minutes later:) “Scratch that–i’m going on to the bar, this is excruciating!!”
We have entered, over the last decade or so, the era of constant contact. For better or worse, most everybody we’ve ever known is a few clicks away. We can make our plans–and share our pictures–without so much paper and stuff in between us. For all the ways that technology complicates and over-stimulates our lives, in some big ways it offers the blessed relief of simplicity.
No big stack of bills waiting to be paid; your statement’s online. No bulky church newsletter in the mail once a month; check your inbox. No endless envelopes of film to pick up at Walgreen’s–printed in doubles, of course–you can hit the ‘delete’ button on the duplicates, the red-eyes, the blurry landscapes and the unflattering morning shot, all before it ever hits the newsfeed. As a contender for the title of ‘World’s Least Organized Person,’ I for one am grateful to have fewer piles and boxes and cabinets full of stuff to filter every time I move. Me and my one box of pictures are ready to go.
Insert appropriate church metaphor here–what is taking up sacred space, while no longer serving us? What did we print in duplicate/triplicate/or by the hundreds that nobody will ever need to read again? Are we using the same modes of communication–literal and otherwise–as the rest of the world beyond our walls?
Are our neighbors sitting and waiting for us at the bar, while we carry on business as usual in the fellowship hall?
Still recovering from a 3-hour-time change, I don’t think I have it in me to draw all the connections I normally might. But you get the gist. It’s time to change the story we tell–as well as our means of communication–if we want people to truly hear what we’re preaching.
The idea of simplicity as applied to the language of faith has been around for awhile. “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” St. Augustine’s words are not exactly new for the digital age, but as Disciples of Christ affirmed the welcome of ALL to our table this week, we held these challenging words in prayer. And by overwhelming majority, we moved to extend the invitation to all those who seek Christ, with no exceptions based on sexuality. We also moved to oppose drone warfare; make life more fair for immigrants; extend family leave to clergy; and continue our work of reconciliation, in the face of systemic racism.
While we don’t all agree on what is truly ‘essential,’ we continue to gather around the cup of blessing, in true Disciple fashion, while we figure it out.
I’d like to see the Church move into our future together with just one box of essentials–not cabinets and drawers and storage cubes full of clutter. I’m not always sure whatall that box should have in it, but I know that it calls for the sacred work of sifting through images, words, and practices together. I’m grateful to have been a part of that work this week, and am overjoyed that we are inviting more voices and hands into our midst for the work ahead.
Its time to get the good news out of the closet, Church. And out of the business meetings, and out of the fine print (and duplicate prints), and out into the waiting world.
Somebody bring the camera. It’s gonna be a great trip.