Change & Church
Last week I had the joy of my annual end-of-January visit with framily in Santa Fe. So much has changed since last year when I saw my 11-year-old goddaughter, 8-year-old nephew, and 5-year-old niece. Elizabeth is almost as tall as I am! Nathaniel is just finishing the 5th Harry Potter book! Jojo is thriving in kindergarten! How has so much transformation happened in just one year?
While the kids were in school and my dear friend Sarah at work, I had ample time to wander downtown and (what else?!) check out local bookstores. Yes, I indulged my favorite vacation activity of reading in the sunshine. And change was a constant companion! Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters gave inspiration about how our gatherings (board meetings, small groups, choirs, worship) might shift how they come together to focus more clearly on the why. Kenda Creasy Dean’s Innovating for Love: Joining God’s Expedition through Christian Social Innovation gave insight into how the church has navigated changes in the past as well as language that reminds that God’s love is the core of our work, and that can’t be stopped by changes in our society.
I know this choice of literature reveals how my mind, heart, and spirit have been deeply engaged in the church’s changes since the pandemic. These changes actually began more than a quarter century ago (I recall heated discussions about it in seminary in the late ’90s). I marvel about church as I did with Elizabeth, Nathaniel, and Jojo: how is it possible that…? what happened to…?
Like many of you, I grieve what seems to have been lost in how “church” used to be part of the core of our society. The current realities of our shrinking budget and impractical bylaws[*] have caught up with our congregation, which is very similar to what congregations are facing across the country.[†] And still I see the potential of what God dreams for us, even as it may look very different from the past.
Elizabeth is no longer a gangly child, but a precocious pre-teen with a lot of exciting possibilities ahead of her. Nathaniel still cuddles beside me with his books, but some of his passions escape my understanding. Jojo has become an independent spirit determined to claim space for herself. The church is no longer what we loved in the past; and still we love it and the future it holds. God does not leave us bereft, but gives glimpses of what the future holds. And though it includes change, it remains beautiful.
For which I thank the living God.
P.S. If you haven’t yet read the documents in preparation for Annual Meeting, particularly the Funding Plan and Bylaws Change Proposals, please do. If you have questions or comments please reach out to one of our congregation’s moderators: Mark Schofield (current), Scott Ward (vice), and Beth Tyne (past).
[*] I hope by now you’ve read the Annual Report and proposals in preparation for Sunday’s Annual Congregational Meeting.
[†] I highly recommend this brief article for a little background and encouragement.