A: CHANGE?! My ancestor donated that lightbulb – see, we’ve put a plaque on it!
A bit of light humour (pardon the pun); yet with a grain of truth in it. Anglicans, in broad generalisations, are not known for being people who easily or quickly embrace change.
So how then DO we address change? Because change is one of the constants of the universe. It will happen – like death and taxes, there’s no avoiding it. And sometimes we deal with is well, at othertimes not as well. Change can scare us, it can cause stress. Change brings about “THE UNKNOWN” – even when we are expecting a change, have planned for it, and are excited about it, there are always going to be unknown factors.
I’m in a ministry setting right now that is rife with change. My predecessor was incumbent for more than 35 years; this was followed by 3 interim placements in 2 years. I’ve now been here just a few months, and lots of things are different in the parish; for example: a female rector (a first!), with a soprano voice and crazy shoe collection; new leadership roles bringing about new ideas and new ways to express a passion for being church in the community; Different ways of leading worship, from emphasis in varying words to where the sermon is preached. There are many, many other changes that are happening. This is normal with any new incumbency, because there’s a new person with his/her own unique gifts and skills – we’re not unique that way.
But change is something that a parish family must learn to embrace. It’s not necessarily going to be easy, or ideal for everyone, but it is a reality. A parish that can embrace change is one that is willing to be flexible while remaining faithful, willing to be courageous while maintaining a sense of humility, willing to find joy in those ah-HA! moments and make our ministries demonstrate that joy to the broader community.
It’s also a community that doesn’t place arbitrary judgement on the change itself.
Change happens. The outcome of it may bring joy, it may bring challenge, it may bring flux and uncertainty. But change itself – it just is. It’s not good or bad, it just is. And so with that, change brings us the opportunity to make of it what we will. Will we open our hearts and minds and choose to perceive and embrace change as a positive reality, a growing edge, an exciting opportunity? Or will we close ourselves off to change, declaring the problematic “we’ve never done it that way before”, refusing to allow the Spirit to move among us and inspire us into new expressions of ministry?
Change will happen. How we respond to that change is up to us.
Perhaps the real question is not how many of us will need to change that lightbulb, but how many of us are unwilling to sit in the dark, and instead offer to change it to bring the light back in.