plastic bags

This morning while I was out walking I stopped by the local department store to pick up a couple of things.

When I got to the counter and handed over my purchases, the shop assistant said “would you like to purchase a 10 cent bag?”.

I was a little shocked to hear that what I had taken for granted for so many years, I now had to pay for.  I’m as green as the next guy, but c’mon… bag for my shopping?  I had a 20 minute walk ahead of me, and no bag?

Certain that there is no way a bag is worth 10 cents (even if it is bio-degradable) and that the big retail chain was just working on another way to make a few more bucks, I politely declined, took my shopping in hand and grumbled my way out the door.

When did this happen?  I mean, I know you’re supposed to take the green bags to the supermarket, but I wasn’t even planning to go shopping – it was just an impulse visit as I walked by.

I imagined as I walked, that this was one change I will never get used to.  My whole life, when you go into a shop and buy something (no matter how small) you’re offered a plastic carry bag.  Somehow having that taken away from me seems monumental.

Of course the truth is, and we all know it, that we’re writing cheques that our planet simply cannot cash.  Every plastic bag I pickup from the supermarket costs our planet in the oil and electricity used to manufacture it, and the environmental cost of billions of plastic bags being used for 15 minutes and then thrown away – either to sit endlessly in landfills, or worse to enter waterways and eventually clog our planet’s oceans.

But as I ponder the plastic bag this afternoon, and how this change is being foisted upon us (that’s the ‘us’ who have been too slack to make the change ourselves, despite all knowing full-well that disposable bags of any kind are downright wasteful) I was more drawn to thinking about how we (I) respond to change.

I was cranky this morning, about having to carry my shopping home with me.  And it will happen again on other days in the future.  But it will happen less, and less, and eventually I’ll become accustomed to the reality that disposable bags are not part of daily life.

My life, our culture, will change – and eventually we won’t think that carrying reusable bags around with us in some form or other, is inconvenient or an imposition.  Eventually, it will just be a fact of life.  Our planet will be better off for it.

The first moments of change are so often difficult for so many of us.  When what we have always known (or have become dependent upon) is taken away, we can respond with anger, with frustration, with despair.  We can be very certain that what has changed threatens our quality of life, and that we’ll never be able to adapt.

When that change happens in something that really matters to us (rather than something so trivial as a shopping bag), it seems doubly hard to deal with – and definitely more certain to inflict pain upon people.

There are many voices calling for change in our church – that most holy institution that many have grown up knowing all their lives, have depended upon, loved and cherished.  Change seems frightening, and somehow at odds with Jesus Christ who, so we say, is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Changing anything within the church that really matters (and even quite a few things that I don’t think matter at all) is a big, big deal.  Changing the culture of the people of the church is a long, complex undertaking.

But you know what?  We’ll get used to it.  At first it will be hard, maybe even horrible.  And then it will be annoying, or frustrating.  But eventually, for those who have been long-term ‘church-goers’ we’ll get used to new ways and means, and it will become normal.  And somewhere along the way, we’ll find that we can reconnect with a whole bunch of people for whom ‘the church: the same yesterday, today and tomorrow’ just means we’ve become completely irrelevant in an ever changing world.

Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, I won’t be given a plastic bag for my shopping, or even the option to buy a disposable bag.  And I’ll be completely accustomed to that reality.  It won’t bother me in the slightest.

I wonder though, beyond 2020, what church might look like?  And I wonder whether I’ll be one who ushers in change in response to a changing world, or fights it tooth and nail?


2 thoughts on “plastic bags

  1. Scott, you never cease to amaze me with what you write. A very interesting, thought-provoking article brought about by something as simple as a plastic bag. Keep up the great work!

  2. A very thought provoking arguement Scott. I doubt it’ll be ten years away though for the plastic bags. We paid 29c for plastic and $1 for the material bags in Ireland if we forgot our bags and just accepted it as we were in a different country. We thought, good on them. Several times we emptied all our shopping into the boot of the car from the trolley as we’d forgotten our bags that were safely at home. We are lagging behind in Australia on this score.

    As to change in the church, yes it comes very slowly and with pain hey? We met a guy in Aldi this morning, who was lamenting a typical church “dilemma”. This was a church we used to go to, (thank goodness). They have what they call Friday nighters which is a bunch of people slightly older than us (in many ways) who meet once a month, the fourth Friday night, to sing hymns and have supper. They were recently discussing when they would have the December meeting as the 4th Friday night will be Christmas this year. The conerns were rife, if we have it on the Thursday or Saturday night then it won’t be Friday nighters, if we have it on the week before then it won’t be the 4th Friday night. Lets hope this guy who was telling the story was being a little too unkind in his relating of this meeting.

    There are many more changes we need to wrestle with in our churches though and change within ourselves that are worth investing time and effort in hey? Thanks for you thought provoking comment.

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