To stay alive, memories need to be told and re-told, and they, too, can hold wisdom for the present and the future.

Dear Members and Friends,

And now we welcome the new year.  Full of things that have never been.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, 20th century

Simplifying and De-cluttering our lives are all the rage lately.  Beyond dealing with the great accumulation of “stuff” which most of us gather during our lifetimes there are even suggestions for applying this discipline to broader areas of our lives.  I have seen articles titled: 7 Ways to Simplify your Digital Life and 5 Ways to Declutter your Social Life.

There is some real wisdom to this movement.  Dianne and I have recently gone through a drastic “downsizing” of our lives.  We had lived in our home in Miami for 23 years.  It was a lovely, warm, outdoor oriented Florida home with lots of space, (almost 3,000 square feet.)  We needed all of that space when we began our life together, with 4 children, a dog, and over a dozen birds.  We fully utilized that space for entertaining church members, prospective members, family and friends over the years.  It was a great home.

But it also allowed us to accumulate lots and lots of “stuff.”  And with so much space, not have to continually make decisions about whether we still needed all that “stuff.”  (Dianne used to joke that we needed all that stuff so that she would be able to accommodate my request late on Saturday for some prop I needed for the Children’s Message the next morning in worship!)

In the last few years we came to realize we did not need all the space of that house and all the “stuff” that it contained.  It took us two years to slowly cultivate the stuff and de-clutter and simplify our lives.  It actually took finally selling the house and moving into a small 900 square foot apartment with a 75 square foot storage unit for us to truly de-clutter and downsize.  (Although, it is an ongoing process if it is to truly become a new style of living.)

While the process is painful – “stuff” and things almost always have memories attached to them – it is also liberating.  There is a certain freedom that comes with less things to take care of and maintain.  With less, there is actually room for more.  Not more things, but more experiences, which can build more memories.  There is also room for more time, for there is less to take care of.

At Christ Congregational Church, we have also gone through a simplifying and de-cluttering experience in the last few years.  When we welcomed the Sunrise School of Miami to share our campus, we had to clean-out and de-clutter lots and lots and lots of stuff in storage closets and even rooms that had become de-factor storage closets.  It took about a half-dozen workdays with over 20 people working each day to clean out 60 years of accumulation.  Now that we share the space and have greatly reduced our storage capability we have to more carefully make decisions about what needs to be kept long term, what is valuable enough to store, and what do we need to use and then discard or give to someone else.

Now, this year, the Church is going to begin the process of evaluating and examining a lot of ideas, practices, and ministry as you let go of one pastor and engage a new pastor.  Actually, this will be a gradual process for you will experience this de-cluttering process as you welcome an Interim Pastor and then again as you welcome a new settled Pastor.  Just like “stuff” not all ideas, convictions, practices, or policies are valuable simply because they’ve been around a long time.  They are valuable only as they carry wisdom forward from the past and as they continue to equip us better for a constantly changing future.

Letting go of things from the past and embracing new ideas and ways of doing things in the future can be unsettling, even a little painful, often a little sad.  But doing so does not mean that memories have to be lost or let go.  To stay alive, memories need to be told and re-told, and they, too, can hold wisdom for the present and the future.

On New Year’s Eve we pull out the old song Auld Lang Syne (which most of us don’t really understand or know what it says, but we just know it is the song, in our culture, used on New Year’s Eve.)  More than a sentimental relic, it is a call to value the good, the bad, and the boring – all that has made us what we are.  Yes, even the painful memories.  They  too have shaped us.  We can never have too many memories.
See you in church.

R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida