Voice of the Vestry: gaping hole or opportunity for growth?

by Elizabeth Black, Junior Warden

When we have change, we often have fear.  Something is missing. Something is gone.  And when it is not replaced immediately, our sense of self preservation, of self-protection kicks in;  “Oh my

Elizabeth Black

gosh!  What is going to happen?  What will we do without it?  How do we replace it? Fix it now!  FIx it before…”  Before what? All change is not created equal.  All change is not bad. And change, which most often includes the elimination of something, does not necessarily require an immediate and identical replacement.

I made a huge change in my life in the past year.  I quit my job.  I had been looking for another position for many months while still employed.  But not finding a good fit in a new position, I chose to give two weeks notice and leave my employer and only source of income. It had become an untenable situation that was affecting my physical and mental health – and I was working as a mental health counselor!  So I made a conscious decision to no longer sacrifice my well being, and took a scary leap out into the unknown.

When our body is injured, there is break, a cut, or a hole. Big or small, created by an enemy, an accident, or a random event, there is something missing.  Or when our bodies’ systems go awry, there is a gap in one of the pathways that keeps us functioning.  We are wounded and want to replace or repair the missing element with that which is as close to the original as possible.  We want to be healed, and get back to the exact way we were before, back to “normal.”

At first I thought I would just take a few weeks off.  I would rest, reflect, reassess, and get back on the proverbial horse.  Well, sleep I did, and reflected through introspection, prayer, and with professional help. Three or four weeks after leaving my job, I was desperate to feel better, to be “healed” from the burnout I was experiencing.  But the big sense of relief did not come. I could not make myself leap back onto the work horse. I had eradicated the primary source of my challenges, but I quickly knew that simply jumping into a different job was not going to exorcise all my issues. There was more healing to be done. I had to look deeper.  And that would take time.

A church is often referred to as a body.  Grace Church is a group of parts and systems that function in intricate ways to keep us going on a daily basis toward a common goal; our manner of being alive with Christ in our lives. But our church is a body of humans, not a human body.

Our church, like our life, is different than our bodies. When something changes in our parish, when something is suddenly gone, whether through accident or intention, we have options. This is the same with our lives.  When change happens we can adapt. We can adjust. We can make a change.  We do not need to automatically replace what is gone. We do not have to immediately repair something that’s missing with an identical part.  We do not need a surgeon to sew back on that which has been cut off.  We can take a moment. We can reflect and be introspective. We can even create something new. And even when we lose people who have been members of our parish, of our body, through their moving, their retirement, or even their death, we can never replace them.  Nor should we try.  Each one is unique and irreplaceable.

When we experience change there are opportunities. These are chances which are given to us by God to take a moment and reflect.  Let’s look inward during these crossroads in time and take inventory.  Let’s reassess while we have an opening in our view of our daily life. Does our routine need more of the same or something new?  Is there a different perspective which can broaden or strengthen our efforts to be Christians? Has time shifted and altered the challenges that face us? Is there someone who is new, or newly seen, in our midst that can share a different vision?

I’ve taken a year to examine my career and my life.  It has been challenging.  I have used savings, and worked temp jobs.  It has been hard work.  But it has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself.  And now I have a new vision.  It is not perfect, but is so much more clearly formed than when I began this transition.

I am challenging all of us at Grace to take such a risk during our season of change. I am encouraging everyone to take a few deep breaths and then trust that the Holy Spirit will not let us fall if we open ourselves to new ideas.  I am wishing for our beloved parish strength to let go of fear and give ourselves the space to allow change and growth to come to us. If we do, I believe we will be amazed by what we see.


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