Recently I celebrated my one-year anniversary in my call here as your pastor. The first week or so I had many people ask me “So, what do you want to change?” with the service, with the council, with many different things. My answer was always the same, “Nothing right now, let’s keep going the way you already know how.” Looking back on the past year I have two conflicting mindsets. The first is that we are still plugging along, doing things pretty much the same as we did on my first day here and then I think, well, actually, a LOT is different. We HAVE grown together this year quite a bit.
That’s the thing about change. Many people are resistant to change yet open to learning and personal growth. Growing and learning all our lives is important. It doesn’t and shouldn’t stop just because we think we are too old or that we already know enough. We should always strive to grow and learn more, to become better versions of ourselves.
I’m reminded of the Gospel text from this past Holy Trinity Sunday:
[Jesus said,] 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
Jesus is implying here that there is still a lot to learn but that he doesn’t have time left on the earth to teach it. Instead the Spirit will teach it. So, we learn from the Spirit through many ways. We learn from each other. I admit many of you have taught me things and I appreciate that I get to grow and learn alongside you.
I titled this article “Change is Inevitable” because many people, especially in churches, are resistant to change. If we grow as individuals, if we grow as a community, then we will change, and hopefully for the better. On top of that, the world continues to change and grow around us. In many tangible ways, we cannot “do church” the way it was done 50 years ago, because the culture has changed. At the same time, we can still hold on to those parts of our faith that give us comfort. Those things that keep us grounded. We don’t have to lose what we feel is sacred for the sake of “change”. We don’t change for the sake of changing, instead, we change as a natural outcome of our growth.
This past year, we have gotten rid of a lot of our clutter here at St. Marks. We had cabinets and spaces filled with things from many years ago, often things that no one knew the purpose of anymore. We have rethought how we use our worship space and other spaces, even trying out different seating arrangements. We are in the process of raising money to reupholster our sanctuary chairs which will make them more comfortable and more appealing. We have begun a different style worship service on Saturday evening. We continue to serve the community in many ways, including one new way in our Parent’s Night Out.
All of these changes help us to love each other and to love our God better every day in different ways. And that means that we are growing. It’s true, overall we are not growing in numbers, but if we grow in faith and continue embracing good change, the numbers will come too. Because the more we grow and serve our God and our neighbor, the more people will want to know exactly what is going on at that little church on main street. They will see that people are growing and will want to be a part of the special things going on here.
Thank you for embracing changes and being willing to grow, both personally and as a community. As we continue on this journey together let us look at different ways we can continue to grow and change. Change is inevitable, and that’s not a bad word or a negative thing. If we aren’t changing, we aren’t growing, and if we aren’t growing and learning and becoming better people, then why are we here at all? Let’s keep listening to the Spirit and continue growing into what we can become.
I’ll leave you with one last anecdote. I’ve said something several times here in reaction to conversations about change. Why are we doing this or that? For instance, every week we print several copies of a Sunday School curriculum and put it into the nursery. Then, most weeks, we pick it up and recycle it because it went unused. Why? Why waste the paper? Because it’s important to be prepared for when we DO have enough kids to warrant a class. So I have said the same thing, time and time again. “If you want to grow, be the church you want to be, not the church you are.” I think we are well on our way to being the church we want to be. Thank you and bless you.