Grace through change

I think it is fair to say that everybody wants their church to be a vibrant place of ministry and transformation. The people of St. Paul’s are no different. Whenever I have discussions about what God has in store for us in our future, there is always a sense of hopefulness and vision that imagines either a lively and full Sunday School program, or a forty-member choir, or pews bursting forth with new people, or giving more away, or all of the above and then some. That kind of visioning and wondering is fun and healthy, and it is the beginning of living into God’s call to us and realizing our dreams and God’s.

I think it is also not too far of a stretch to say that most of us also want a comfortable church home—a safe place that we can call our own—where things like furniture and people remain familiar enough as to not cause a hazard. Like when we wake up in the middle of the night and trace the well-worn steps to the bathroom with our eyes half closed, we want to be able to count on an intimate knowledge with our church surroundings so that we don’t have to work too hard to get around. I think this type of intimacy with our surroundings is particularly important to many of our older (and wiser) members.

Pastorally speaking, we always have to be aware of how change affects those who might be
counting on things to remain relatively unchanged. When we do make changes, we need to remember that there are those who will need some hand-holding in the dark for a while until we all get our new bearings. Over the last few years, we have seen our share of changes, and I hope no one has felt too out of place or left behind. I want it to be perfectly clear that we never intend to leave anyone behind. The future of St. Paul’s accounts for and depends upon a diverse community of young and old alike.

There is a shadow side, however, to familiarity. Having a familiar church home can be a bless-
ing and a source of comfort for us all. But things can be too familiar and we can get too comfortable. And when our comfort turns to complacency, then we have ventured into dangerous territory, at least in terms of our mission. I would agree that too much change too fast is stressful (even when things change for the better). But there is a certain holy, grace-filled tension that accompanies change, and that tension keeps us alive and transforms us into the people that God has created us to be. And is calling us to be—right now!