Well this will be quite a different August from what I was expecting in May. Of course this has been quite a different June and July, as well, since we became aware of Scott and Kim’s departure. It certainly kicked things into a different gear for me this summer with a new set of priorities. The CBF General Assembly became a networking and interview opportunity that we could not pass up, and the past month has continued that theme as we have put a Search Committee into place. Changes, expected or not, require that we adjust, that we be flexible. We have to be willing to let one vision of the future go, so that we can fully enter into a new vision.
As I have engaged in such conversations, though, I have learned much more than names and gained much more than resumes. I’ve met people and heard stories that I have found comforting and encouraging. It’s very clear that we are not alone. That there are many urban churches like us who have had a glorious past, who are presently striving to chart a new course toward health and stability. And for those churches that are really daring to think this way, many are surviving, if not thriving. Furthermore, there seems to be, on first glance, ministerial candidates out there who are not just interested, but excited about coming to serve churches like us, provided that we really are willing to take some risks and think outside the box. Now, I’m not promising any results or timetable here when it comes to new ministers. I’m just encouraged by what I have seen, and the resources that may be out there for us, human as well as ideas.
It seems to me to be a tricky thing to talk about the need for change when we serve a God of miracles, for whom nothing is impossible. And yet most all movements of salvation require change. Forgiveness requires confession and repentance. Healing requires assessment and treatment. Reconciliation requires vulnerability and reaching out. Growth and maturation requires spiritual discipline. Even eternal life requires that we go through the valley of the shadow of death first. Ours is a God who is ever seeking to do a new thing, but for that to happen, generally speaking, something must pass away before something can become new. And sometimes, this may not be a theoretical necessity, but more of a practical requirement. Sometimes you only have enough resources (time, money, human) to promote a certain number of ideas, themes, programs, priorities.
Our leadership takes the challenges before us very seriously. Our staff, Vision Team, Deacons, key committees, all understand the reality of our situation, but they also understand the strength of our fellowship, the potential of our resources, and, as one member is fond of saying, “that God isn’t finished with us yet.” And so the question becomes: How can we live out our identity as a progressive missional urban congregation and achieve our potential? How do we need to adjust? What needs to change? What can we let go of, and allow to pass away? What must we hold on to? What do we need to celebrate and lean into? What new things, even after 175 years, is God calling us to be a part of?
I’ll be honest. I’m something of a creature of comfort. I don’t like having to adjust, to change. I gather some of you feel the same way. But I’m grateful that God’s love and call will not let any of us settle for comfort. And so I can also say with all honesty, I’m excited about the days ahead, about the new adventures we will take, about new people, ministers and members, that will join us in this journey. Let’s dare to be flexible and adjust as the Spirit calls us into our future.
This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge
and originally published in the August edition of Together