The process of getting a house ready for sale is not fun. Especially when someone (called the real estate agent) comes in and tactfully suggests you de-clutter!  No matter how kind and tactful the wording the message still has at its roots – “your house is full of stuff, clean it out!”

For the past two weeks we have been sorting, cleaning, dusting, scrubbing and organizing. We have had some difficult decisions to make – do we keep this object we have hauled around fro years – just in case we might need it or is it time for it to find a new home? We have made several trips to donate to rummage sales and service organizations to drop off bags and boxes of stuff. A school received our collection of National Geographic magazines for their library; a family member got cloth and other sewing supplies and so on.

The house is ready to show and strangely enough the task has been worth it. This cleaning out of stuff and keeping a focus on the future has allowed us to unburden ourselves from the accumulations of unused things and clutter from the past.

In our spiritual life and in our life as congregations we could profit by someone strongly suggesting we de-clutter. Most of us carry all sorts of burdens from the past that slow us down and keep us from focusing on our core purpose. There are hurts and slights and grudges that keep us looking in the rear view mirror of history rather than into the new abundant life God calls us to enter in the future where he stands calling us.

In our congregations – what traditions, ministries, events are relics of the past that continue not because they are life giving but because we have always done it this way? One congregation I know had had a tradition of Lent Fish Fries, This took every bit of energy and personnel in the congregation to put on. For an aging congregation it got harder each year to do.  And other activities were suspended to focus on this one activity. And the result is the core purpose of the congregation was subsumed by what was really a fundraiser. If they had put the same amount of time and energy into neighborhood ministry as into the fish fry they would make a larger effect on the lives of neighbors than simply feeding them for several Wednesdays.

De-cluttering our personal lives and congregational life may allow us to focus on what we are called to do and to be in the future. We can honor the past but don’t have to carry it or its unneeded burdens into the future. And like our clean and uncluttered house it make life easier and more enjoyable.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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