16 March 2013

courage to converse

Having returned from a week of interim ministry training, my brain is full of information.  It will take me a while to process all of it.  By the way, one of the primary focuses was on “content” and “process.”  Content is the “what,” the data.  Process is the “how,” the way things happen.  As I said, I’m still processing!

Something I found especially interesting were some excerpts we were given from Margaret Wheatley’s Turning to One Another—Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future.  Here are some tidbits:

“Change begins from deep inside a system, when a few people notice something they will no longer tolerate, or respond to a dream of what’s possible.”

“It takes courage to start a conversation.  But if we don’t start talking to one another, nothing will change.”

“Lately I’ve been listening for what surprises me.”

“Sometimes we hesitate to listen for differences because we don’t want to change.”

“We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused.”  (I can usually master the second part of that one!) 

“Do I feel a vocation to be fully human?”  (I really like this one.  Being “fully human”—what all is involved in that?)

07 March 2013


“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  That seems to be one of those universal truths, expressing the way life seems to remain in a state of flux.  Actually, the fact that things continue to change is part of life itself.  Whether we’re thinking about single-celled organisms that constantly move in order to find food—or the larger creatures called animals that are “animated”—by its very nature, life requires movement; it requires change.

There is a technical term for something that never changes:  it’s called “dead.”

Congregations are living things.  As a result, they also are constantly changing. Some see a difference, however, between change and transition.  Change is something that happens. Change is an event, whether we choose it or not. Transition is how we experience that change.  We have very little say in whether or not we want change (that is, of course, if we want to remain alive!). Transition, though, is something we can control.

In Philippians 3, we see the apostle Paul trying to lead the people through the change that the gospel inevitably brings.  In this case, it’s the abandonment of circumcision as a requirement for Christian faith.  Whether they embrace that as transition in the changed reality is another question.  Will they come to terms with it?  Will they change their practices?

In his book, When God Speaks Through Change, Craig Satterlee applies these ideas to congregations in interim, transitional times. He says that in-between times can seem “wasted and meaningless.” But that need not be the case. “Chaos,” he says, “is more hospitable to new ideas than are standardized methods and routines.”  For Satterlee, we need to “resist the desire for certainty and closure.  Congregations often try too quickly to ‘get back to normal’ when in reality there is no ‘normal’ to get back to.”  There is no “normal,” because due to change, we’re in a new environment, a new world.

What changes are we facing now?  If we want to choose life, what transition do we need to follow?  The season of Lent, with its focus on reflection and discernment, lends itself well to such questions.

As Henri Nouwen once said, “When we cling to our own positions and are not willing to let our hearts be moved back and forth a little by the ideas or actions of others, we may easily be broken. A humorless, intense, opinionated rigidity about current issues might cause these issues to break our spirits and make us bitter people.  Let’s be flexible while being deeply rooted.”

(The above also appeared in our church newsletter.)