In Native American societies there is a tradition involving what is called a ‘sacred bundle’. This is a collection of objects that each reflect a particular moment in the story of the tribe, and each addition to the bundle is marked with great ceremony and ritual. The person who holds the sacred bundle is given a place of great honour within the tribe – but that person is not the chief or the medicine man or healer.
In churches I often think that there is a similar sacred bundle, and a similar person who holds it – the person who can tell all the stories that have brought a congregation to the place they are at now – and that person is very rarely a vicar or a church warden. They are the people who can point out to a new vicar ‘It’s probably not a good idea to move that flower stand because it was given to the parish in memory of old Joe and he meant a lot to all of us’ – you get the idea.
However, all that being said… We recently started to tackle the accumulation of debris at the bottom of the Vicarage garden. There must have been several years worth of discarded branches and hedge trimmings that had built up, and we managed to get a great blaze going in our bonfire. There’s still much to do – and the Diocese is sending a contractor to trim the hedges down properly, although it’s strictly down to the Vicar to do that (thank you property department!) – but in the course of this necessary purging I discovered two discarded and ruined wheelbarrows underneath all the dead branches.
I thought they looked good as a modernist sculpture:
I am left with a question: how do I decide if something, a particular practice or object in a new parish, is meant to be classed as part of a sacred bundle or is simply an abandoned barrow? It’s rather like the discernment of spirits – test these things, to see if they lead to peace and joy or otherwise.
As with all the things that try us, the answers are straightforward and simple: pray, do not be afraid, then act in the trust that God will redeem whatever we do and work it for the good.