Did you grow up watching Bagpuss?
A young girl named Emily owns a shop. (This oddity is never explained) She goes out and finds things that are lost and broken and brings them back to her shop. The creatures who live there wake up and restore them, with hard work and trial and error, with humour, with songs, with a story or two. Once mended and cleaned, the items are put in the shop window so that whoever lost them can reclaim them again. The title “shop” is used very loosely. No money appears to change hands. The items might be a tiny sailing ship in a bottle, a pile of broken pottery pieces that turn out to be the World’s Smallest Giant, or a pink straw elephant who has lost his ears, but looks very fetching when given a hat with ear flaps to wear.
Imagine a Christian community that worked in the same way as Bagpuss and Co. All who God sent through the doors would be welcomed. No picking and choosing who is worth investing in. The inhabitants of the shop don’t choose who they welcome. The fact that Emily regards something as a treasure is enough. Even if, as Professor Yaffle is often quick to say, it looks like “another heap of things, broken bits of things.” What if there is gentle restoration and cleansing for all who come in? What if the goal is not to keep them in the shop, but once they are restored, to send them back out, to take their place in the world again.
What if we treated our stories and those of people who come to us as precious too? If Bagpuss can find the right story to tell, about an item that comes to the shop, the mending can happen. As Bagpuss announces, “What we need is a story, a magic story that will put it back together again.” Even the most unpromising of items that Emily brings can have an amazing story behind it, and finding that story can be a powerful thing. What if we made lots of time to hear people’s stories, however they want to tell them, and to share our own stories. And what if we add to that mix the baffling, healing, subversive stories of Jesus?
What if those who live and work in the community know they are just as random and assorted as Bagpuss and his friends? Lazy, or know-it-all, or cantankerous or kindly, or patronising or frenetically busy, or, possibly the worst of all, ready to play their banjo at the slightest excuse. Yet, despite all these flaws, these folks found a way to rub along together, and committed themselves to the work of welcome and healing, even thought they were just as much in need of restoration as anyone. I rather like the idea that Bagpuss, Gabrielle the Toad, Madeleine the Rag Doll and the rest were all “finds” that Emily brought in for repair, who never got reclaimed by their owners, so stayed in the shop.
Famously, “When Bagpuss goes to sleep, all his friends go to sleep too”. How about a community where there was always time for a nap? (This one is particularly close to my own heart!)
What if we treated everyone, including ourselves, as immensely precious, not necessarily because of who or what we are right now, but because we are loved by God and precious in God’s sight.
“Even Bagpuss himself, once he was asleep, was just an old saggy cloth cat. Baggy, and a bit loose at the seams, but Emily loved him”
If you’d like to instantly be 4 years old again, here is the Bagpuss opening sequence.
If you have a sudden urge to rewatch the series (or discover it for the first time) them YouTube is your friend. Enjoy!