Fill in the blank: “Change is ______.”
Reverend Maureen R. Frescott
Discomforting? Refreshing? Unsettling? Exciting? Inevitable? All of the above?
As it’s often said, into each life some change must fall (pun intended). But too much change, all at once, can be unsettling and discomforting, even for those of us who normally welcome a shift in our routine, perspective, or surroundings. As a congregation, we’ve willingly embarked upon several notable changes in the last few years – a new leadership structure, new bylaws, and new worship services. This spring, we voted to begin a Capital Campaign to fund needed building repairs, and to replace the aging fire suppression system throughout the entire church. Both of which bring a sense of upheaval and uncertainty – as summer construction has our office and meeting spaces in disarray and budget concerns have some wondering if we’ll be able to support a capital campaign and continue to fund all the ministries we’d like to do as a church. Finally, earlier this year we learned of one more change that was unexpected for many – the retirement of Pastor Dick, who completed his time with us on July 31st after 14 years of serving our congregation as the Senior Pastor.
With all this change afoot, I begin this last of our summer months as the new Acting Senior Pastor, while our new Acting Associate Pastor, Kate Rogers, prepares to join us on August 13th.
These pastoral transitions bring additional changes of their own, as Kate steps in to lead our Senior High Youth Group and assist with our adult education program, and I take on the primary role of leading worship and providing pastoral care for our congregation. I am honored, and feel blessed to have been chosen at our May congregational meeting to be the one to shepherd this 277-year-old congregation through this time of transition. New pastoral roles often lead to new opportunities – for fresh expressions of worship, spiritual formation, community outreach, and ministries to help us better engage and build relationships with others and with God.
If all of this sounds exciting and refreshing, I’m right there with you, as I truly believe our congregation has the energy, vitality, passion, and momentum to move through these many changes and transitions, with God’s help, and become a stronger and more faithful community as a result. Conversely, if all of this sounds discomforting and unsettling, I’m right there with you as well. It’s never comforting to walk in the midst of uncertainty on unfamiliar ground. Because as much as we may trust God’s Spirit to guide us along the way, there is still our very human tendency to feel concern for our future, to long for what is known, and to need some assurance that we’re not taking on more than we can handle – financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
A well-known economist once said, “Change can be frightening, and the temptation is often to resist it. But change almost always provides opportunities – to learn new things, to rethink tired processes, and to improve the way we work.” As we look ahead to the fall, there will be opportunities for us all to learn new things, rethink tired processes, and improve the way we work together as a community of Christ. Our Capitol Campaign team will continue to approach givers, prioritize and organize building projects, and update us on their progress. Our Needs Assessment Team will solicit feedback from the congregation on what ministries and programs we value as a congregation, and how we can best meet those needs going forward. Our Vision Team will continue the process of looking down the road and discerning where God is calling us as a congregation, as we begin a two-year Leadership Training Course offered by the NH Conference, called “Creating and Leading the 21st Century Church.”
The first part of our congregation’s Mission Statement says that as a church we are “Grounded in God’s Love.” In all that we do. In our worship, our music, our fellowship, our attention to spiritual formation and education, our stewardship, our extravagant welcome of all, our service to neighbors near and far. But it’s important that we also remember that we are Grounded in God’s Love in the midst of the challenges that we face as a community committed to following Jesus – in the midst of shifting membership, budget shortfalls, the demands of an aging building, new structures of leadership, pastoral transitions, and the polarizing cultural climate that we live in today.
We are rooted in God’s love, and God’s love is rooted in us.
It is the unconditional and always present love of God that guides us, sustains us, and grounds us.
In the midst of turmoil and unrest – Love guides us.
In the midst of loss and grieving over what once was – Love sustains us.
In the midst of change and uncertainty – Love grounds us.
When we think of how we might fill in the blank – “Change is_______” – we might say that “Change is Love.” Because we love this church community, and we love God, we are willing to risk our sense of comfort and familiarity, in order to step into something new, grow into something new, and continue to seek new ways to be the church God is calling us to be.
Peace and blessings,