Several weeks ago I preached for one of our congregations. During that Sunday’s children’s time, I asked, “Do you like change?” When a girl nodded her head yes, I asked what she likes about change. She responded, “You can buy things with it.”
She was right. That’s one way to think about change. But I hope we can agree that change is more than the coins in our pockets.
Over a recent lunch, three of our region’s pastors talked about their upcoming retirements, which represent significant change in their lives and those of their congregations. One pastor noted that the baptisms she performed on Palm Sunday were the final ones she would do in her current setting, but they also might be the last ones she ever will do. Each pastor speculated about what the future might hold—especially during the initial months of retirement.
We also talked about how the region might best support them as they transition through this time of change and how the region’s staff might work with their congregations as they begin transitioning through changes of their own.
As I reflected on that conversation, I recalled words of wisdom from William Bridges, an acclaimed consultant and author in the area of change: “Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work.”
His words remind me that healthy change doesn’t happens overnight. It requires a transition that unfolds over time. It involves a process during which there is an openness to doing things in a new way.
As Bridges notes: “Transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old.”
More than a dozen of the congregations in our region are in pastoral transition. They are at different points of transitioning through the changes they face.
At the end of April, I participated as one of those congregations celebrated their pastor’s retirement. While waiting for my turn on the program, I received a text from another congregation that had just voted to call the candidate they had hosted over the weekend as their new pastor.
Celebrating an ending and a beginning on the same day was a wonderful reminder that transitions include both—and that different kinds of transition can result in healthy change.
Regardless of the situations we encounter in our individual lives and those of our congregations, may we embrace the promise that change can be more than just the coins in our pockets.
Associate Executive Minister