Cargo, Supplies & Baggage

Perhaps it's because the theme we've exploring this year has involved water and boats but I seem to be drawn to creative imagery and metaphors about seafaring and boats over the past few months! Recently I began to work through Margaret Self's book, 'At Sea With God', and I reached the chapter about the 'cargo' I'm carrying with me on my spiritual journey. It is challenging, uncomfortable and encouraging.

Visiting the Cutty Sark, an historical tea clipper now berthed in dry dock at Greenwich, provoked Margaret Self into wondering about the cargo it carried and how important it is to make sure a boat is loaded correctly. It's particularly important not to overload a boat so carrying unnecessary baggage when you've already got a full cargo plus essential supplies is not recommended. And she asked herself the question: in the vessels of our lives, how do we tell the difference what are essential supplies, what is unnecessary baggage and what is the unique cargo we're supposed to be carrying?


Such questions are pertinent to us as individuals as we develop as disciples, but they are also relevant to ask of the churches we serve in the rural areas of the UK. At times it can be very hard to distinguish between the essential supplies, unnecessary baggage and the unique cargo of a church.


Apparently, the Cutty Sark still smells of tea. In the course of her working life she carried many tonnes of tea between China and Europe and although the tea is long gone the aroma has infused the wooden planks so there is no doubt what the clipper was used for. Years later her past cargo cannot be concealed from the casual visitor. If we want to know what are the essential supplies we need to take with us, as well as what is the unnecessary baggage holding us back, then perhaps we'd do better to begin with asking ourselves: what cargo should we be carrying as a church?


There are times when I feel I have wasted a day acting as mediator on an online forum where theological debates are raging. Insisting disciples speak respectfully to each other about issues they feel strongly about and resisting demands to shut down opinions on the basis they have upset someone can feel a thankless task. In reality, all most people are trying to do is work out the correct theology about a doctrinal issue. They all want to get it right, and it's not a bad thing at all to be concerned about theological hot potatoes, but perhaps we're often tackling these things from the wrong angle.


Perhaps we'd all be better off trying to establish what is the 'unique cargo' we should be carrying with us first; in the light of that, it'll be easier to work out what are the 'essential supplies' to keep, and what is 'unnecessary baggage' it's time to throw overboard.


My husband and I are currently house hunting. Such is the state of the market we've viewed some wildly contrasting properties in our search for a future home. One house we viewed didn't meet what I considered my 'essential supplies' but, as I walked around, the atmosphere of peace was so compelling I realised some of my essential supplies were actually unnecessary and needed to be ditched. What I wanted above all was a place of peace. My husband said it didn't fit his original requirements, but he had such a sense of joy in the place he'd be happy to live there. What he wanted was joy. I have no idea if this place will one day become our home or not but for teasing out what our real priorities are - what our 'unique cargo' is - it was an exceptionally useful experience.


We all have God given gifts, talents, passions or interests that are unique to us. Some of us have stifled them for years because they didn't suit other people's ideas about what our 'unique cargo' should be but each church, each disciple has something different to bring to the Church, the Body of Christ. Some of us have been following the sea charts created by previous generations and carrying their cargo that is well past its use by date but it's now time to seek out what God wants you to be known for now.


So, what is your unique cargo? What is the one thing only you or your church can be? Find that out, ditch what you no longer need and sail on....


'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.'

Romans 15: 13 NIV


Alison Griffiths

Director - Wales and South West England