One of the things about moving—whether cross-country or across the county—is that the unpacking continues for long after the move.

There was a canvas bag of stuff that I took out of my dresser as we were getting ready to leave Carmichael. For the past four months it sat unopened. At first, it was on top of my dresser. I had quickly scanned its contents just after we moved into our Rancho Cordova home to make sure there was nothing in there I needed immediately. Then, there it sat. After about three months, I needed to dust my dresser, so the bag moved to the floor next to my nightstand. Then, during the last week of August, while vacuuming our room, it was moved to on top of my nightstand.

I considered putting it back down on the floor. But, throwing caution to the wind, I decided to go through the bag. Here’s what I found:

  • 7 wristwatches and a pocket watch. 2 of the watches were broken, so I decided it was time to throw them away. The other 5 need batteries, but since I have been wearing my Apple Watch I haven’t felt the need to get them serviced. (The pocket watch works fine, and I use it when I docent at the California State Railroad Museum.)
  • My old hearing aids and expired hearing aid batteries. (I’ll keep the hearing aids for backup if my current ones need servicing and toss the batteries.) Also, 4 packs of filters that also fit my current set, so they stay.
  • A pair of glasses, at least four prescriptions ago with bent frames and scratched lenses. I think I can get rid of those now. 
  • A bag full of buttons. Everyone needs a bag of buttons!
  • A bag full of collar stays. You never can tell when your collars need staying!
  • 2 receipts for Christmas gifts. I guess those can no longer be returned, so goodbye.
  • A Valentine’s Day card from Chris. That’s a keeper.
  • 4 holiday-themed (2 Thanksgiving, 2 Christmas) Covid masks that I assumed I wouldn’t need in 2021. Whoops; I guess those go in the keep pile.
  • A campaign button and 3 bumper stickers from the last presidential election (keep the button, toss the stickers).
  • My folding camera tripod.
  • My “grasshopper lens.” (A pocket kaleidoscope)
  • A bunch of cable ties.
  • Four pens.

What to keep and what to throw away. Sometimes it’s as easy as duping a canvas sack onto the bed and sorting through it. Other times it is far more complex.

We look at the traditions of the church and understand that history is important. But there are things that need a second look to decide to discard them or to look at them in different ways. 

I was examining the windows in the sanctuary, trying to guess what the pictures represented. (In looking later at the booklets about them, I found I was only wrong about four of them.) I was struck by the missionary window. The booklet says it is dedicated to the UCC Board of World Ministries (now Global Ministries), which was the successor to the American Missionary Association. It pictures a woman, dressed in 19th-century clothing and bonnet towering over an indigenous (probably Hawai’ian) girl in traditional not-very-modest clothing.

The window’s view of missions is outdated. At our General Synod this summer a resolution was passed affirming and apologizing for our church’s role in overthrowing the legitimate government of Hawai’i (this followed a resolution from several years ago apologizing for the practices our missionaries used to coerce indigenous peoples).

I would never suggest removing the window. Its presence reminds us that we need to grow in faith and faithfulness. We discard the misguided ways we promoted the faith, which in Hawai’i included virtual slavery for indigenous workers on pineapple plantations. Yet we must not forget that we did this. And that we did it invoking Jesus’ name.

What to keep? What to throw away? May God always guide us in the better path.


Pastor Bill