On Purpose

By Jackie Pierce

It has been many years since I have written about “what I did on my summer vacation.” I never thought I would be writing about “what I did during the global pandemic.” The shut-down happened so quickly.  One day, I was getting ready for our St. Mary’s St. Patrick’s Day concert, and the next, well… My first project during the early days of shelter-in-place was to clean out drawers and closets.  For reasons I cannot explain, when I am stressed, this is what I do. Right before the shut-down, a friend gave me The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  You have probably seen the diminutive Japanese author who gives sage advice about both physical and mental decluttering. Her tips on tidying up are magic.  My sock drawer would be the envy of the neighborhood if anyone could come to see it!

If you have seen Marie on television or have read the book, you may know that her philosophy is to approach each item with a question:  Does it spark joy?  It may seem silly, but her method does work.  I feel ten pounds lighter without all that “stuff” that really did not spark joy. Goodbye forever, uncomfortable skinny jeans!

In August, when the River and Carmel fires looked like they might converge, evacuation was inevitable for us.  Once again, the wisdom of Marie Kondo rescued me.  The list of “saves” was short—Mike, Fiona the cat, fiddles, a few important papers, and a couple of sentimental items. It was a frightening and poignant reminder that the things that truly spark joy, are not things at all.  Returning home to a fully intact house, I was brimming with gratitude. Should it have taken a crisis to spark my appreciation?  An important lesson learned.

This summer, I have been part of the team that plans the “On Purpose” discussions.  The question that keeps running through my mind is, what sparks joy at St. Mary’s?  Joy is hard to contemplate right now with so much hardship and sadness in the world. Without our beautiful sanctuary and usual rituals, church life has been challenging. But can we use this crisis to spark gratitude? Are we holding onto old clutter that is keeping us from experiencing abundance and joy?

Despite the challenges, we continue to gather, though remotely.  We are serving the community, we are playing music, we are finding our way.  We are connecting and supporting each other. We are using this pause to reflect deeply on who we are.  We have already done our “closet cleaning,” we have made room for something more.   Are we ready to move forward?  What is that “something more” we seek?

Through “On Purpose,” we are finding our voice. We are telling our stories. We are learning about what is beautiful, interesting, unique about us. We are exploring abundance, gratitude, grace. We are discerning God’s intention for us in this changing world.  We are re-imagining our mission.  Our group reading has suggested that a clearly defined sense of mission is essential for a happy and healthy church.  We know instinctively that when we focus outside of ourselves, we are following God’s command to love as we are loved, and we experience joy.

So, let’s continue to contemplate our next steps, as we translate our fear into hope, our words into action.  Please join the discussion as we delve into the question, “what sparks joy at St. Mary’s?” Our next meeting is October 11, 2020, 2 to 3:30 p.m.  Here is the Zoom link. We ask that you prepare by reading the short thought-provoking parable, found here.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and seeing you on the video screen.