I am writing this article as the United States has just celebrated Martin Luther King Day, which is celebrated on the third Monday of January each year. He was born January 15, 1929, Atlanta, Georgia, United States and assassinated: April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee, United States. You will have your own opinions and responses to this Baptist pastor who touched the soul of a nation and influenced the non – violence actions of the civil rights movement worldwide. When I hear recordings of his speeches, read about his life, my heart is strangely warmed; he changed a nation’s public opinion and gave notice that the established way of doing things which does not include equality and justice for all, needs to be challenged and changed in peaceful ways.
Change is at the heart of all life. Yet very often we do not wish to acknowledge this, hoping that the discomfort we feel at change’s presence will be fleeting and we can revert back to feeling comfortable on our island, while the waves from the Sea of Change break all around us.
Returning from my leave this January, I decided my office needed to be changed in some way. With Fleur’s help, we changed the furniture around, removed stuff that was no longer required and Fleur gave it a thorough spring clean. Five hours later, we witnessed an incredible transformation; it had received a major make over. There was a feeling of freshness, more space, which was conducive for creativity and interpersonal communication.
The previous office arrangement has served me well for the last four years. It felt comfortable, yes it had its idiosyncrasies and I knew mostly were things where. Yet, there was staidness which seemed to permeate the air and was not conducive to creativity; hence, drastic action was required. The windows and blinds needed to be opened, allowing fresh light needed to flood the room. It was time for change.
Sitting in my newly arranged and freshly spring cleaned office, I began to see things from a different perspective. Changing my office around was like a symbolic first step on a new journey, for like my old office arrangement I too at times felt staid and dusty, in need of some re–arrangement and spring cleaning of my life and ministry here at St Aidans. I readily admit, I don’t usually find change a daunting prospective, I could say change has been one of my constant companions on my life’s journey. But, I do appreciate that others may find change an incredibly difficult experience.
If you pause a moment and look back over your own life, to those moments of major change:
· What was it like?
· What did you find helpful?
· What was unhelpful?
· What lessons have you learnt from your life, which may be helpful for you now at this moment of another potential change moment in your life?
How was that exercise? It may have brought up memories evoking a mix of emotions. Yet, I can also imagine that weaving its way through your change experiences, are courage and hope, which like a subterranean stream bubbling out of the ground, offering refreshment for a weary traveller on the journey who stops and stoops to drink.
Sometimes, we forget that humans experiencing change is not a recent phenomenon. The ancient Greeks were very much aware of the presence of change in their lives. In Greek mythology (Courtesy of Wikipedia) there was a god called Proteus, he was an early sea god of rivers and oceanic bodies of water. He was called by Homer the ‘Old Man of the Sea’. He was also described as the god of ‘elusive sea change,’ which suggests the constant changing nature of the sea and the liquid quality of water. The ancient Greeks were attempting to personify this elusive aspect of human existence namely change in the form of a god, who was in control of these mysterious forces. It is interesting to note that from the word Proteus, is the adjective protean, with its positive connotations of flexibility, versatility and adaptability
Here at St Aidans we have experienced change in many varied ways over the last four years, and those positive connotations of flexibility, versatility and adaptability characterise beautifully how you have responded to our new ways of having varied Worship Services and Kids Friendly Activities. However, what we may forget when we talk about responding to change is that the ‘new way of being and doing things’ may very quickly become ‘the way of being and doing’, instead of just ‘a way of being and living’ on the journey of life.
For us to continue to be a community which is alive, open, offering fresh ideas and creative worship we need to be open to new ways of being church, to keep on learning and discovering what it means to be a community of faith and build those bridges to the community in which we find ourselves being among.
To do this requires continued practice of those positive connotations of flexibility, versatility and adaptability. Along with courage to honestly evaluate what we are doing and becoming. To make the hard decisions and walk along pathways not previously travelled.
Returning to my re – modelled office, I am curious what creative ideas will flow within its walls, what seed thoughts will grow as I sit and have conversation over coffee with another human traveller. At this moment I am unsure what will unfold. Likewise, for our year ahead at the Community of St Aidans, we don’t know what will unfold, but, it may mean that what we thought was ‘the way’ is just ‘a way’ and that there are other ways of being church. Now that is an exciting prospect!!!
I leave you with a favourite poem of mine: Fluent by John O’Donohue.
I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding
PS. Why not drop into my office and experience the transformation for yourself. However, this invitation comes with a warning; you too may catch the change bug and then, who knows what will happen!!!!!
From my heart to yours – February 2014
An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand