I’ll let you in on a little secret. Much of what pastors preach, they need to hear themselves. Those words of grace, those nudges toward new life, those calls to wake up and pay attention—if we’re honest about it, we pastors are preaching to ourselves right along with everyone else.
The time ahead is one of transition for St. Christopher’s; it’s one for me, too. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like times of transition very much. They can be scary, and disorienting, and a bit of a roller-coaster ride.
You’ve been through lots of transitions before, so you probably have your own words of counsel on how to navigate them with faithfulness and grace. Here’s my shot at it:
1. Pay attention to yourself.
It sounds obvious, but this can be one of the most difficult parts of a transition time. We get caught up in emotions or tasks or the flurry of activity, and we forget to acknowledge what’s actually going on with us. Emotions are a neutral thing; they are neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad. But they can get the better of us if we don’t recognize them and decide how to deal with them. So if you’re feeling some excitement at the changes ahead, notice that; if you’re feeling worry or grief, notice that as well, and then decide what you want to do with how you’re feeling.
2. Give thanks.
One of the great myths about gratitude is that you need to wait until you feel grateful to give thanks. You don’t. Giving thanks is a practice, and it’s something you can do regardless of how you feel.
Let me be clear: I don’t mean you should give thanks to me. I mean a time of transition is a great time to look at where we’ve been together in the past years and to give thanks to God and to one another for all the good ministry we’ve been part of. It’s a great time to give thanks for God’s Spirit that has sustained us in the past and will continue to sustain us in the future. Which brings me to number 3….
3. Cultivate hope.
Hope comes from a deep knowledge that God has been with us in the past and a deep conviction that God will be with us in the future. Giving thanks is actually a great step toward cultivating hope. Remember that times of transition are opportunities for God to do a new thing, to enter our stories in a new and loving way.
4. Show up.
Again, sounds obvious, but not always easy. For many of us, times of transition are times we seek to avoid. We can hole up, steer clear of others, avoid the uncertain times and come back when things have calmed down a bit. But the truth is, we need each other in these times—we need one another’s faith and hope and love. Remember that: when you show up, you’re not just doing it for yourself but also for the others in the community who need you.
5. Continue to be the church.
It can’t be said enough. The church is not its clergy or its staff or its buildings; the church is you. The church is each one of you, and it’s vitally important that we remember that fact during times of transition. There are many ways to live out our calling to be the church, most of them relating to our daily lives in our homes and workplaces and community. Being the church also means serving in leadership when the need is present, and now is such a time. Consider serving on the Vestry Council, the St. Christopher’s leadership team, in this season: your faith and vision are vitally important.
I’m preaching to myself with these words of advice. Times of transition can be difficult, but they can also be times for growing in faith and finding new wellsprings of grace. It’s my prayer that now will be such a time of growth and discovery for St. Christopher’s.
On December 31, Pastor Andy announced that he has accepted a call to serve as pastor of the English-speaking Lutheran congregation in Geneva, Switzerland. His last Sunday day at St. Christopher’s will be January 31. Copies of the letter announcing his new call are available in the church office.