Decisions, decisions – what to keep, what to give away, what to toss. That’s the world I live in these days, both in my home life and my church life.
I’m blessed to be going back to Asbury UMC for year 6 as pastor, but our family is still moving – a few doors up the street. This is the final week since we need to be out of the old house by the 15th. For the last couple of weeks we’ve been making the move to our new but smaller house. That means getting rid of chatskis and dust-collecting accouterments we no longer need and won’t fit in the new place. It means figuring out new ways to make the old furniture and fixtures work in a new setting. And it means dealing with the mess of it all as we make the change.
Asbury has many of the same issues. We’re not relocating but we are trying to move to new places as a church. We’re growing and making plans for ministry unlike what we’ve done before. We’re not trashing everything, but we are having to decide what to keep and what works in a new setting. It’s also messy in the meantime.
The United Methodist Church as a whole is also facing similar circumstances. We’re rethinking who we have become and trying to reverse decades of declining membership. There are aspects of our life together that need to be tossed out, and others that need to be reworked, and still others that need to be kept as is but fortified and stabilized. In the process, our connection and structures feel a bit messy.
Here are three proverbial truths I’ve learned in these times of change:
- Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. My son has a couple of dressers that we purchased before he was born. They are the oldest pieces of furniture we own. They still do the job, they’re in good shape, and something newer would not necessarily be better. Likewise, our church has Affirmations of Faith, Hymns, and traditions that serve God’s purpose in our community.
- Don’t force-fit something into a new space just because you have an emotional attachment to it. The family desk that was in my daughter’s room does not fit in her new space. There is no other place in the house to keep it. We could try to fit it in, but it would become an obstacle more than an asset. We could all name traditions or fixtures in our churches we really want to keep because they mean so much to us. Problem is, they don’t fit in the new context we have for ministry. To keep them would create a stumbling block and hinder our work.
- The hard work of making the change is worth the effort. Life won’t be what it once was, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be great. To move to new places – physically, emotionally and spiritually – gives us a new perspective. It opens us up to new possibilities. It allows us to see the landscape of life in a way that brings new inspiration. It will be messy, no doubt about that, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Speaking of that, I need to go now. It’s time to get the last of our worldly goods from the house and begin cleaning up the mess. At the same time, we are already living into the newness God has given us. We’re thankful and we’re blessed.
Holy high-five to you,