As members of Welcome Table Christian Church, we often experience meaningful life changes with one another. Our children keep growing and engaging with our community in different and amazing ways; beloved congregants find themselves unable to join us on Sundays; new faces visit and sometimes join; leaders roll off of our board and out of the Elders, as other members step in. These are all important changes that affect different elements of our community.
As most of us know, over the upcoming months and years, we expect some additional and very significant changes: our beloved pastor will retire and leave us at the end of the year; a new, temporary pastor will be selected, will join us, and will eventually depart again after a permanent replacement is found. We expect to move into our new building on Beacon Hill in the fall next year. I don’t believe anyone has fully wrapped their mind around the ways this will change our lives as we adapt to our new neighborhood.
William Bridges was an expert in organizational change who developed a way of describing what humans experience as they navigate large transitions. We enter the first stage when we begin to experience the End of the Old Way. This often comes with denial and a profound sense of loss, as we recognize what we have to lose. The second stage, The Neutral Zone, happens after connection to the old way has faded, but we have yet to embrace the new world. This can be a particularly vulnerable time: attendance and productivity often drops, old weaknesses and animosities return, and confusion runs high. The Neutral Zone can also be rich with opportunity and growth. Eventually, individuals find themselves living in the third stage, The New Beginning as they grow accustomed to the new ways of doing things. Everyone experiences the phases at different times, at different speeds, and with different comfort levels, but we all go through all three phases sooner or later.
Welcome Table’s elders are actively preparing to support the community through these transitions. We will be connecting with many of you individually, but if something is worrying you, or if you have something that you’d like to share, I invite you to reach out to myself, or to one of the other elders. While specifics haven’t been decided, Jo, Joan, and I are planning to use our fall retreat to help the community prepare for these transitions.
Change is hard. Change is also an essential part of life, and without it, communities would stagnate and wither away. This period of rich transition offers us a series of opportunities to define ourselves more clearly as a Christian community. How can we be better Christians? How can we live more fully in Christ? These questions and more await us.