Families who have experienced childbirth know that transition is the most difficult and critical part of the whole process, and entails the most physical and emotional effort.
Transitions in the life of the church are not that radically different. The Body of Christ is a congregation changes from week to week as different members are present or absent, but in many ways the body undergoes a kind of new birth when leadership changes. Clergy changes mean the loss of pastoral relationships and the work of building new ones. Familiar worship leaders and patterns may be lost, bringing both grief and relief, which can both be appropriate.
New opportunities abound for every member of the body in the midst of such leadership changes, and communities usually bring an eager hope for future relationships, missional opportunities, and larger possibilities. The challenge, especially for leaders, is to steward emotional and other resources for the work ahead. The work involves closing the previous chapter in gratitude for what went well, letting go of and learning from what didn’t, and saying good-bye (God be with you). Hanging on to unfinished business complicates the entry of new leadership and can derail that eager hope in unrecoverable ways.
The Diocese of San Diego is in the midst of several major transitions. Bishop-elect Susan Brown Snook starts her work this week, as she begins to keep office hours and starts building deeper relationships with diocesan leadership. More than a quarter of our congregations are in various stages of leadership transition, with clergy departing, new ones being called, and some on sabbatical. If you are eligible for sabbatical and haven’t yet considered why or how a sabbatical might bless you or your congregation, I encourage you to be in touch with the Rev. Laura Sheridan-Campbell. Sabbaticals are a kind of transition opportunity that allows all members of the Body to learn new ways and build the kind of skills that increase the health of the whole body and its members.
Life itself is transition. Only dead bodies aren’t engaged in the hard work of growth and change.
Blessings on you this Eastertide, as we seek to become the transformed and resurrected Body of Christ. May you and your congregation not only discover that new reality, but build the muscles of loving relationship that lead to even more abundant and vibrant life.