Monday, 21 July 2014

Fighting packrat tendencies goes digital

I believe most pastors are packrats at heart.

I say that affectionately, knowing that I probably could be classed as one. In fact, if left unchecked, I could probably be called a hoarder.

I came to that conclusion recently when I did a major clean out of my office at the church. This has been part of a much larger process of my wife and I cleaning out our "stuff" at home.

The catalyst for this hive of activity was the death of several older members of our families and being named executor of their estates.

Death is remarkably clarifying.

In my own case, I was the executor for my aunt, who had, over the years, had a hobby of genealogy. My aunt had documented all of her family research going back to the twelfth century. The family tree, when unrolled, is twenty six feet long!

Because one of my ancestors was a notable Canadian pioneer and his wife an early Canadian author, there was a lot of original historical research in the estate. My aunt had willed her files to Trent University, who were prepared to received it. All 47 boxes.

After that experience my wife and I agreed that we would not inflict our hoarding on our families. We would dispose of all that we could now, and be more diligent about what we accumulated.

One of the reasons I bought a truck last year was to take loads of junk to the dump. At least that’s what I tell myself. My wife is not entirely convinced.

This summer it was the turn of my office at the church.

When I moved to Owen Sound in 2000, I brought 35 boxes of books to my office. I took 25 boxes of books to the dump this month.

I have set aside a few books for colleagues, but most of what went to the dump was out of date, falling apart, available elsewhere or simply no longer relevant to my work.

Goodbye and good riddance.

I found dozens of pens in my desk drawers. I think they were reproducing in the dark.

I also came across some things that gave me pause.

I found pictures of couples I had married over the years and photos of children I had baptised. That was heartwarming.

What touched me the most were the notes of thanks and expressions of gratitude from families I had served. Some were through pastoral crisis and others were more pleasant. Some were notes of deep joy and others of great sadness. A few were from people whom I know have since died.

All are treasured by me and I will keep them.

Then I ran a dusting pad over the office.

I mean I ran two dusting pads over the office and I am sure there is more to be done. Both pads were almost black when I was finished.

I have resolved to make changes.

I will not allow paper and notes to accumulate. If it is not necessary, out it goes.

I will make use of electronic documents as much as possible. I have already started to receive magazines and books digitally.

I discovered this week that I have over forty electronic books I have read or am reading, not to mention magazines. The down side is that I also found it is really, really easy to order a book when I don’t have to enter my credit card number but can use once click ordering.

I may have traded one problem for another. I may still be a packrat pastor, but it’s a lot easier to be a digital packrat pastor. And in the long run, it will be a lot easier for my kids to clean up.

Rev. David Shearman is the minister of Central Westside United Church, Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County, Cable 53.