The Book of James tell us that God does not change: “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17 NRS). Perhaps we can take comfort in the steadfastness of our Lord whose love never ends and grace for us does not waver. Maybe we need to be reminded of that more than ever when things change in our lives.
I have been through much change in the thirty-five years of my life. I have moved more than nine times, and am preparing for my tenth. I have been married, and then divorced; a change I never would have anticipated. Becoming a mother continues to be a daily encounter with change. My life changed again when I unexpectedly met the man who would become my new husband, step-father to our son, and partner in ministry. Now I am at the culmination of my journey to ordination and my first appointment as an ordained Elder. This is change. It means life in flux, and the transformation of self and circumstance. I could be frightened. Some might say I should be scared, but I am not. I believe that God is at work in my life and my ministry, and God is active in this change. Perhaps I am foolish to feel so at ease, or perhaps I have reached a point in my faith life where I am so grounded in God that nothing can shake me, unless I let it.
Change can be difficult. I am deeply invested in my current congregation in Norfolk, VA. I have been with them for eight incredible years. They have been invested in me from the first stage of declaring my candidacy for ordination to its completion this June. We have been through countless trials and tribulations. We have experienced the fullness of human emotion together, and emerged stronger. God has knitted us together for a time, and I have been blessed to be bound to them. But now that bond is being severed. I am being called to a new congregation, and there is much to mourn about this separation.
The miracle of God is that even in the sadness and mourning, there is so much to anticipate with hope and joy. I have been granted gifts and graces in ministry which are needed, valued, and desired. God has moved hearts and minds to send me to Crozet, VA, not least of which is my own. My hope is not at the expense of my current congregation either. God has made sure to send them a new pastor with his own gifts and graces, and passion for ministry. When he arrives, the Holy Spirit will begin to knit him and the congregation together, weaving the next panel in a tapestry of their identity. While I am only beginning to know him, I know that we serve and honor the same Lord. I can trust that the God who called me and upheld me, can and will do the same for him. It is a blessing to fathom the graciousness of God in this time of transition.
This is the tale of only two churches in transition, but spring in the United Methodist Church is a time of profound change for many churches and their congregations. The Body of Christ is being made and remade all over the world. There are many who will be frightened of the future, and that is an honest emotion. There will be others who will find this serene sense of God sweeping over them, and if we find ourselves in that category, then we are duty bound to share that comfort, while still allowing space for the ambiguity of change. This is a time to draw near to God and one another. It is an opportunity to cling to our faith rather than digging in our heels against inevitable change.
I am praying for all those who are in the throes of change. My deepest prayer is that we can allow change to be a time of transition, moving from one state to another with grace and the preservation of human dignity. God may be unchanging, but in the midst of change we just might see God in the most profound ways, and come to understand the claim God has on our lives. May any change we experience be filled with tangible signs of God’s presence and providence. May we stand firm in our faith, even when the ground seems shaky.