Celts, Campfires and Circling the Wagons

This morning I was reading in Common Prayer, about Brigid of Ireland (c. 450 – 525)

Brigid is believed to have been the daughter of a pagan Scottish king and a Christian Pictish slave. Even as a child, she was known to have a generous spirit and a compassionate, tender heart and was drawn to help the poor, the hungry, and the cold. Eventually Brigid’s father decided she must be married or taken into someone else’s household, because he could no longer afford to keep her (especially in light of her excessive giving to the poor, which he feared would be the ruin of him). Brigid refused marriage and became a nun with seven other women. At Kildare, she founded a double monastery for monks and nuns, assisted by a bishop. The perpetual fire at the monastery became a symbol of its hospitality and constant, undying devotion to God and the poor.

While there are a number of thoughts that could be teased out from this brief bio, it is the image of the fire that I’m drawn to. Where I live, fires are natural gathering points and relational events. You can always count on food being shared, stories being told, periods of comfortable silence, and conversation.To invite someone to a bonfire is to invite them into your life. Just like in Brigid’s day the fire not only represents a place where the hungry, cold and lonely are welcome but where those needs can be met.

A few weeks ago I was having lunch with two good friends. At one point our conversation became corporate in nature, talking about churches, movements, and denominations. One of my friends asked the question, “Are we more about circling the wagons or inviting people to the campfire?”

I don’t remember any of us responding.

Its easy for me to point out where we’re not doing it collectively. Its almost stylish to pick apart the shortcomings of an organization. But as I read about Brigid today, my friend’s question became much more personal. “Am I more about circling the wagons or inviting people to the campfire?”

According to usingenglish.com, Idiom Definitions for ‘Circle the wagons’: “If you circle the wagons, you stop communicating with people who don’t think the same way as you to avoid their ideas. It can also mean to bring everyone together to defend a group against an attack.”

When do I tend to circle the wagons? How do I position my life, steer conversations, and use silence to cut off people who don’t agree with me? Who am I subtly but intentionally keeping away from the fire and from me?

Those are good questions for me to sit with today. How about you? My responses will begin tomorrow.



One thought on “Celts, Campfires and Circling the Wagons

  1. Wow! You beat me to the punch. I have been working on the metaphor of “circling the wagons” as well. Just not ready to put it in print. I will do so in the days ahead. I am thinking about the question, “will the center hold?” Thanks for the opportunity to consider these questions over bbq.

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