Have you ever sorted a home after someone has died? Isn’t it amazing what value we place upon things in our grief? It’s true also that sometimes we see things glaringly well and suddenly everything becomes junk.
A loved one in my life died several years ago and as we sorted her house all of us looked at things differently. To some in the family, the sheer amount of “stuff” made almost everything ‘junk’ while to others, if it was salvageable in any way it needed to stay. Some sorted through everything with individualized care and others swept counters off straight into the trash without looking for errant valuables.
Although our grief often filters the way we handle those events, traditions are what really lead our actions. We either tend to challenge them because we find them useless or we cling to them because we are afraid of what is next without them.
The problem is, we need to actually pay attention and be willing to be honest with ourselves and our community. Just because we have always had those plastic door arrangements at Christmas doesn’t mean they actually do any good anymore. If they are faded, cracked, peeling, or just so dated they can’t even be called retro, then it might be time to toss them. Sometimes though, we just need a good dusting.
For the church, maybe those paraments may not need to be thrown away, they might just need restored or a good professional cleaning. And the pews might need some TLC from a carpenter. Maybe we need to tell our pastors not to wear robes in the summer so they don’t die of heatstroke. But then, maybe, we need to ask them to wear them once a month, because we don’t see them except on Christmas and Easter and we love the symbolism.
What is important though, is to ask ourselves why we are keeping these things, and if they are of value to our community today. If you are keeping the pews because that is what we do, and you are leaving wheelchair bound folks without a way to worship without sitting in the aisle, the ‘tradition’ has suddenly been devalued because the pews are no longer conducive to worship the way they are.
Lets take our lives, our traditions and consider whether it is time to refresh, revive, or renew. Let’s do it openly, acknowledging our emotional ties and then let’s hear from others. We might find that traditions sometimes get better with a little evaluation and attention to the why, rather than just ‘doing’ them for the sake of tradition itself.