Our family recently observed the 5th anniversary of my father’s death. It was a sad time, but also an occasion to recall favorite memories. I remember how my father always had a story or a joke at the tip of his tongue. The one that came to my mind recently, as I have been contemplating my upcoming transition (from pastor at BCMC to Conference Minister at Western District Conference) is the story about the church which had a Bible verse posted over the door to their crib nursery. It was a verse from 1 Corinthians 15:51: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed!” Corny, I know…but true. Whether we are hoping for resurrection or just some dry diapers, whether we are adults still grieving the loss of a parent, or a pastor and a congregation anticipating a leadership transition, we will be changed.
Change is an inevitable part of life, yet our impulse is usually to resist change – to hold out against the loss, grief and disruption that change brings to our lives. As I prepare to leave my role as pastor after 15 years at BCMC, there are times I would rather just “sleep” than “be changed.” There are moments I would rather just toss all my files in the recycling bin than sort through them carefully to decide what to put in the archives. There are moments I would rather just disappear quietly than go through the exhausting emotional process of saying farewell to congregation members and co-workers. There are even moments I would rather just stay with “business as usual” at BCMC than push the congregation and myself into the deep and uncertain waters of pastoral transition.
Even the changes we plan for – such as graduation, marriage, retirement, or a new vocation – can bring stress, anxiety and sadness at leaving behind things that are good. At the same time, change is essential for growing, learning, health and vitality. Transition brings us into a “liminal” time, a concept first used by anthropologists to describe rites of passage and the stage of ambiguity between what has ended and what has not yet fully begun. This word comes from the Latin “limen” which means “threshold.” When congregations and their leaders cross new thresholds, it involves disorientation, grief and stress. Yet it also creates fresh vision, an opportunity for people to use their gifts in new ways, and deeper dependence on God and realization of the Spirit’s guidance.
As we move across the threshold of pastoral transition, I’d like to post over the door some more verses – my prayer for BCMC: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. …God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:5-7, 19-20)
– Heidi Regier Kreider
(This was published recently in the Pastor’s Corner in the Summer 2015 issue of the BCMC Kaleidoscope newsletter)
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