My dear friend and former boss, Archbishop Bob Duncan, is interim rector of a large church in Tallahassee. He told me that leading a parish transition is like leading a large group of people across the sea, from one shore to another. And people cross the sea at different speeds. Some people cross quickly, and they are ready to get on with the journey. Other people are still on the shore, looking for a way to cross, and wondering if anyone notices that they are still there. They wonder if they belong, if they aren’t able to cross quickly. The key, Archbishop Bob told me, is reminding everyone that the task of a transition time is to get everybody across. This requires a lot of patience from everyone in the congregation! It requires the already-across folks to slow down and give some of their friends the time to heal and cross. It requires the still-on-the-shore people to be patient with those who are eager to move forward.
As the Recovery and Transition Team has talked to many of you, we’ve discovered just how true this analogy is at Truro. There are people who are hurt and angry about events that happened last fall. There are others who are frustrated that we are still talking about such things. This is normal. And as frustrating as it is, all congregational transitions are like this. Moving forward in mission requires us first to get everybody across the sea to the other shore. And, it requires us to keep listening for God’s guidance as we move forward.
Truro’s transition has been made even more complicated by Covid. In “normal times,” we would have had easy, informal times of talking with one another. We could be with each other, listening and helping one another. You could have talked with a staff or vestry member after church, to follow up on a question or a concern, without having to make an appointment on Zoom!
What can we do? Paul reminds the Philippians (a church with its fair share of transition and conflict) that the place to begin is by seeking the mindset of Jesus. Read Philippians 2:1-11. Paul enjoins them (and us) to approach one another in tenderness and compassion as we seek to be like-minded while looking to the interests of others over against our own. Above all, we need to have this self-sacrificing mind of Christ, who gave of himself completely in service to others.
What does this mean practically? Here are some things suggested by Jim Osterhaus of the Recovery and Transition team.
If you have questions or concerns, please reach out—to staff or vestry members, to the Recovery and Transition Team, to the Recovery mailbox (Recovery@TruroAnglican.com). Don’t assume people don’t care if they aren’t reaching out to you.
Let’s remember to go directly to the people who have hurt us, rather than talking about them behind their backs. Take a wise brother or sister with you if the conversation seems too difficult to initiate alone.
Let’s consider ourselves as conduits for potential healing. Let’s reach out to those we think are hurting, rather than expecting someone else to do so.
Let’s remember that we are a body; each of us is crucial to the body’s heathy functioning (including exercising our individual giftings) and will add an important contribution to the overall health of the whole body. Let’s consider (each of us) how we might care for this body that we love. Or as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “Let’s consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds.”