What's Up with Pastor Todd 1-23-20

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 1-23-20

The above video is from church planter and consultant, Neil Cole. He is talking about a distinction between “movement” and “institution” that I first encountered in a talk by pastor, author, and activist Brian McLaren when my wife, Nicole, and I were church planters in Indiana.

I forget the details of McLaren’s talk, so I will give you my version of it. A social movement is a “loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of a social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society’s structure or values” (Encyclopedia Brittanica).  An institution is a set of rules, norms, patterned behaviors, and organizational structures designed to sustain the social gains of movements and pass them on to the next generation. 

McLaren argued a dynamic relationship between movements and institutions. Each needs the other. Social movements without institutional structures cannot sustain themselves. Institutions that are not periodically disrupted by social movements eventually lose their vitality and die. A powerful recent example of this dynamic in America is the Civil Rights Movement. 

McLaren’s point is that Christianity can be understood in terms of movements and institutions. The Gospels tell us that Jesus started a movement. It was only many years later when the early Christians came to understand that Jesus wouldn’t be returning within theirs or their children’s lifetimes that the instituional forms of the church began to emerge. And since that time the movement-institution dynamic has been at play in Christian cultures.

Congregational transition engages this movement-institution dynamic in a complex, improvisational way. Often congregations in transition are dealing with institutional structures that are falling apart because they just don’t “work” anymore. Instead of working harder and faster to patch up what is no longer functional, transition work allows much of that structure to fall away. Some of it, however, may have value for the church that is emerging. So we sort through what we’ve inherited and decide what to keep and what to let go of. 

Meanwhile we shift into “movement” mode. We focus on relationships and vision: that is, we build authentic relationships with people who are not yet members of the church, and we share a vision of changing the town of Granby for the better.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 11-26-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 11-25-19

A print of bricolage artwork that hangs on the wall of my church office speaks to my understanding of hope. It shows two sparrows with twigs in their beaks flying above a jumble of houses and buildings, some tipped over. The landscape is jagged clump of fragments above which float fluffy green-gray clouds and an orange sun that looks a bit like a basketball. (I don’t know what the weird, brown, rock-looking things in the sky are. Giant meteors?) It’s not a particularly attractive piece. I bought it primarily for the quotation at the top: “. . . We are not in the least afraid of ruins . . . We carry a new world here in our hearts . . . .”

The quote is from Buenaventura Durruti. I didn’t know who Durruti was when I purchased the print from a funky little craft store in downtown Providence. At the time I was pastoring a dying congregation through a major transition, and the words along with the image resonated with me. The congregation knew that things were falling apart. They saw all the empty pews every Sunday. And they were afraid. Their fear, however, just made things worse. The more they tried to control the situation, the faster things deteriorated. Part of my job was to help the congregation calm down, step back, and accept that things would never be the way they were. The spiritual practice of simply sitting in the ruins of what once was creates a space in which a new world can arise. Later I learned that Durruti died fighting Facists during the Spanish Civil War. Key to Durruti’s struggle for a more just world was the ability to courageously face the ruins while carrying a new world in his heart.

The sparrows in the bricolage remind me of Jesus’ teachings on fear. In the Gospel of Matthew he says: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father . . . So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows” (10:29, 31). Durruti also found courage in Jesus’ words, specifically the promise that “the meek shall inherit the earth.” Durruti could face the ruins because he trusted the promises.

Once in a while as I work with a church in transition a member uncomfortable with change will say, “You are ruining my church.” That is 100% untrue. All I am doing is facing the falling apart that is already underway and inviting others to do the same. Why? Because I am committed to living not some fantasy world where nothing ever changes but in the reality that a new world is possible if we get out of the way long enough to let God bring it forth.

A new world is absolutely possible. It can’t be controlled. It can’t be manufactured. It emerges on it’s own timetable and in it’s own form. Our job as Christians is to observe and nurture it. That is difficult to do if we allow either despair or anxiety to take over. 

Hope is the theme for the first Sunday in Advent. The difference between Biblical hope and false hope is that Biblical hope courageously faces the impermance of every human endeavor. There are always ruins to face because always somewhere something is falling apart. Biblical hope as opposed to false hope trusts not humanity’s ability to create the world we long for but in God’s ability to keep God’s promises and our ability to cooperate with God’s work in our world. In the immortal words of songwriter Leonard Cohen: 

Ring the bells that still can ring 

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in

Maybe your new world isn’t in some far off place at some far off time. What if it’s shining through the ruins right now? Will you notice it? Will you nurture it? Will you, even now, celebrate the abundance to come? 


What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-30-19

Habitat for Humanity “first volunteer” Clive Rainey

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-30-19

This coming Sunday, November 3, First Congregational Church of Granby welcomes guest speaker Clive Rainey to our 10am worship service. Clive is Habitat for Humanity’s “first volunteer. Clive joined founders Millard and Linda Fuller soon after they founded Habitat in 1976. You can read more of Habitat’s story here.  Clive has served in many different capacities and played a key role in the development of the organization. In his 40 + years with Habitat, Clive has lead thousands of builds all over the world. 

When asked “What is the first feeling you have when you put a hammer in your hands?’ Clive responds, “A feeling of power! This hammer is more powerful than guns or bombs or terrorism or dictators; more powerful than poverty or hatred. With this hammer I can change the world! I can begin that change with this house, this family, this neighborhood, this community, this country.” I think Clive would agree that the power he is speaking of does not reside in the hammer itself but in what the hammer represents. In the context of Habitat, the hammer represents a particular approach to changing the world called “partnership housing.”

It’s Habitat’s model of partnership that has made it truly transformative–the kind of organization that high capacity leaders like former president Jimmy Carter would give their lives to. My understanding of the model is that it’s less about charity and more about solidarity. When one is building a house in partnership with a family, a neighborhood, and a community, a context is created in which authentic relationships across race, class, and cultures can emerge. Charity keeps social hierarchies in place. There is the helper and the helped. No matter how the situation of the helped might be changed, the helper maintains her status as “not the helped.” In partnership characterized by solidarity, it’s clear that we’re all in this together. My fate is inextricably linked to yours. In the case of Habitat, clients are literally co-builders with volunteers. This social leveling creates an opportunity–even if for a moment–wherein helper and helped have the opportunity to meet together as equals in an authentic relationship of mutual love and respect. The helped is no longer an “object of charity,” but a full human being, no longer “other,” but, in some sense, me. 

I have found that solidarity can scare the pants off most white, middle class, mainstream Americans. We don’t want to consider the possibility that given different circumstances, we might need housing assistance. We don’t want to consider the possibility that our relative privilege has little to do with our own personal worthiness and much more to do with chance and the fact that we live in an exploitive system that tends to benefit the few at the expense of the many. We don’t want to give up our sense of status and superiority. We don’t want to stand in the place of those who have experienced misfortune, discrimination, or exploitation. My guess is that that’s why there is a lot of charity in the world. Much rarer is true partnership. Habitat has developed an authentic, partnership model.

For me, solidarity, not charity, offers an opportunity for a more authentic walk with Jesus, who “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself” (Philippians 2:7-8). It turns out that the model of authentic partnership is also a model for authentic Christianity.

For critiques of the charity model read Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas and Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It by Robert D. Lupton. I hope you will join us this Sunday to meet Clive and learn the meaning of authentic partnership.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-23-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-22-19

Following worship this past Sunday we had the second installment of our monthly “Working Lunch” program at First Congregational Church of Granby. This month we focused on a report of our Meet the Minister meetings. 47 church members participated in five Meet the Minister meetings over a period of several weeks. An intentional effort was made to invite the participating of both more active and less active members. Each meeting addressed four questions:

  1. What brought you to FCC Granby?
  2. What keeps you at FCC Granby?
  3. What would you like FCC Granby to be in 3-5 years?
  4. What steps might we take to get from here to there?

Responses were recorded and then tabulated through a method of qualitative analysis. You can read a full report of the results here.

Top line summary: 

  1. What brought you to FCC Granby? Sunday school for our kids (17 mentions).
  2. What keeps you at FCC Granby? Frienships/”people” (13 mentions).
  3. What would you like FCC Granby to be in 3-5 years? Merge South Church and First Church/a new combined church with new pastors, new mission, new space more that fits new mission (11 mentions).
  4. What steps might we take to get from here to there? Get out in community/Invite people (9 mentions).

The response to the first question is easy to understand in light of what FCC Granby and the wider culture used to be. Most participants joined the church when they were young parents. It was generally thought in the wider culture that some sort of exposure to religion was a good thing for children. So they looked for a vibrant Sunday school program and found one at FCC Granby. Now those kids are adults and are either moved away or no longer find church relevant. Newer generations have little or no exposure to church. The wider culture no longer values religion the way it used to. Today we can no longer count on young families with children to find us. We need to put in the hard work of connecting with them.

The response to question two is important. Declining churches are often faced with hard choices due to limited resources. This raises a foundational question: What is the “church?” If a church decides that what it really is is the building, its options for creating a sustainable future are severely limited. Too often, the church ends up closing and selling its beautifully maintianed building to someone else. If the church, however, is the people, for whom the building is a resource for ministry, the church has many more options for creating a future for itself.

The response to question three inspires me. It says that many in the core, active membership of the church see the need to do something big to fundamentally change the decline trajectory of the church. Merger is the most obvious option, but what shape that might take remains unclear.

Response to question four may seem at odds with the response to question three, but I don’t see it that way. I don’t see a merger possibility as “throwing in the towel,” so to speak. I’ll say it again, if the vision of merger is tying one “Titanic” to another “Titanic,” we’re wasting our time. If, however, it is combining resources to create a new mission of reaching new people and having a greater impact on Granby and beyond, then it’s worth it. The time to begin building that new mission is now.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-17-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 10-16-19

I would like to apologize for missing last week’s column. Without getting too much into the gory details, I have a recurrance of a tiny benign tumor. That in itself would be no big deal. The trouble is that it’s in my skull! So it can’t stay there. We decided on radiation treatment, which I had last Thursday morning. When I asked, the doc said I might experience “mild fatigue” afterward. I’m not sure what counts as “severe fatigue” but I now know I wouldn’t want to experience it. I spent the next 24 hours in bed. That threw my schedule off for the week, and I missed my deadline. So, once again, I’m sorry, but I’m glad to say I’m back on my feet and shouldn’t require any more radiation treatments. One and done!

I’m writing this from the downtown Granby Starbucks, which is crowded with people this morning. I’m guessing a few, like me, are here for the power and the wifi, which are down throughout much of the town, including First Congregational Church of Granby, because of the Nor’easter that swept through the region last night. Disruption, whether health-related or weather-related, is my experience right now.

Disruption is familiar territory for me. The big one, of course, was when dad came out as gay and my parents divorced. But even before that moment, much of my childhood experience was moving place to place following dad as he moved from job to job. As an adult, my experience hasn’t been that much different. Ministry has called my family and me to move from place to place following opportunities to be of service. Years ago my oldest daughter commented that the only consistent things in her life have been family and God. 

For me, keys to surviving disruption are the following:

  1. Keep it light.
  2. Move quickly.
  3. Widen your vision.
  4. See the opportunities.
  5. Nothing’s personal.
  6. Focus on the essentials.

Perhaps we’ll have the opportunity to flesh these out further, but for now I leave them with you to think about in relation to our congregational transition. 

Transition necessarily involves disruption. Look at Jesus’ example. My reading of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that it was a bit of a disruption–not only for Jesus personally but, as it turns out, for the entire world. Disruption is woven into the fabric of reality. It is also a key component of our faith. Given that realization, how will we respond to disruption as we move into God’s future? 

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 9-25-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 9-25-19

The sound of rain on the trees and grass, the smell of moist earth on the breeze drifting through the window screens invites my awarenes to return to just this moment. As I notice the small details of life unfolding just as it is, I’m grateful. Admittedly, this is a pleasant moment when gratitude tends to manifest more easily, but what a gift that we as human beings have this capacity of simple appreciation.

I find that bringing my awareness to the present moment is almost always helpful. It’s easy to get lost in dreams of the past or visions of the future–be they frightening or longed for. Reality almost always turns out to be different from what we imagine. 

That’s why after our second Meet the Minister meeting, which we shared this past Monday, I invited everyone gathered in the three season porch on the Wilhelm Farm to bring their attention to the late summer breeze, the patchy sunshine on the concrete floor, and their friends gathered at the table for conversation, cookies, and punch. Not every moment is a crisis. Every moment is potentially a moment to enjoy.

This is so important to remember as we move through this time of transition. We need to know where our help comes from. The Psalmist did. “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.” There is a fair amount of grief and anxiety in the congregation right now. There is also a fair amount of hope. Our task in the months ahead will be, among other things, letting go of what once was and trusting that though we don’t know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.

I was sharing some of this with the staff. They suggested that having some sense of a plan would help with the anxiety. It’s not up to me to tell you what the plan is. Any plan is up to us to craft together. That’s in part what the Meet the Minister meetings are for. Nevertheless, I can share my general sense of direction at this point. Right now we are working in a 3-5 year timeline. During that time we are going to shift our focus outward toward reaching new people. New people bring new life, new energy, and new hope. We are right now in the process of forming a Vitality Team to lead this effort. At the same time, we will be working through a process of building congregational health. We have already started this work with Meet the Minister meetings and the upcoming monthly Working Lunch program following worship. Additionally, the Church Council is recommending we engage the services of a consultant to help us with the congregational health piece. Finally, we will continue a process of collaboration with South Congregational Church to build relationships and determine whether or not we share a common mission. For now, all conversations about money, pastors, and buildings should be set to the side. Those decisions can be made once we determine whether or not we want to be together. If we discover that we can build a compelling vision for the future together, then we wil make those other decisions based on that common vision.

I know this is very high level and abstract for some, but maybe it will reduce anxiety to know that I and other members of your church family can see a positive path forward. As we move forward, the path will become clearer. And, once again, nothing is set in stone beyond the fact that if we don’t do something to address the decline trend we’re simply sealing our own fate. Tell me what you think. This is just my sense of things based on my conversations with you, with the folks at South Church, and my 23 years experience working with congregations in transition.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 9-23-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 9-19-19

    The path to congregational sustainability is a paradoxical process of reaching out and reaching in. This past weekend we began training in the “reaching out” piece. 11 folks from First Congregational Church of Granby participated in a workshop entitled “Reaching New People” hosted at First Church in Windsor and led by Rev. Paul Nickerson, a UCC pastor who consults with scores of congregations across the country around issues of church vitality. First Church in Windsor participated with a team of about 20. FCC Wallingford and South Congregational Church of Granby also had representatives present.

During this intense 9 hour workshop over two days, we learned how changes in the wider culture have made the “attraction model” of reaching new people ineffective. We learned best practices of getting out into our community and inviting people into authentic relationships. This is the basis for reaching new people in the 21st century. We wrapped up the workshop by developing a plan for implementing these new strategies and identifying people who could serve on a Vitality Team to work with the congregation so that together we can use our limited resources to greatest effect in growing the church. The Vitality Team will be supported by ongoing coaching from Rev. Nickerson. Reaching new people isn’t just the job of a few. It’s everyone’s responsibility to learn how to be good inviters. If each person in worship invited one friend to worship every week, we’d instantly double our attendance. Imagine that!

I have already begun leading the “reaching in” process. “Reaching in” is another way of saying “building organizational health.” I have been meeting with staff and team leaders, refining and implementing church policies, casting a vision for a range of possible futures for the congregation, modeling healthy leadership that honors FCC Granby’s Behavioral Covenent, reporting to the appropriate committees, and doing a lot, I mean a lot, of listening. Reaching in is a slow, deliberate process whereby we create safe space in which difficult truths can be spoken and heard in love. No congregation is perfect. Every congregation has baggage from the past that needs to be brought into the light, examined, healed, and released. Every congregation can improve its ability to listen deeply, communicate clearly, and engage differing perspectives in ways that draw people together instead of driving them apart. Most often an intentional congregational process led by a neutral expert (not the pastor) who knows the congregation but has no vested interest in particular outcomes is the most effective way to accomplish these goals.

As a congregation we need to tend our wounds, atone for our mistakes, and build a culture of hope so that we can welcome newcomers and weave them into our congregational life. As a congregation we need to let go of past hurts that weigh us down so that when the storms of change wash over our tiny boat, instead of sinking to the bottom, we can ride the waves. We need to learn how to be vulnerable and trusting with each other so that whatever the future holds we can face it with joy. 

How is this related to our conversations with South Church? As I’ve said before, we need to fix the holes in our boat because if we tie one leaky life raft to another leaky life raft, where does that get us? We’re all still going down. Or think of it this way: what marriage is most likely to succeed? One in which the partners are stressed out, depressed, and dying or one in which the partners are happy, hopeful, secure in their identities, and looking to the future? 

Whatever our future, the process of reaching out and reaching in will take us where God and the Town of Granby need us to be.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 8-28-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 8-27-19

Part of transition work is working with staff transitions. In congregational life, staff, including clergy, come and go for all kinds of reasons. What is true for us on a personal level is also true on a professional level: none of us is permanent. Everyone, no matter what their title or role, is temporary. Staff relocate. They take other jobs. They resign to attend to personal or family matters. Sometimes the congregation has to reduce its staff because of finances. Sometimes the staffing needs of the congregation have changed because the congregation has changed. Sometimes staff that were hired to “maintain” the congregation “as it is” do not have the skills to engage in a transition process. Sometimes there are performance issues. Sometimes staff retire. These transitions are almost always messy, but they create opportunities for congregations to reflect on mission, vision, and values. What do we really want? Is what we’re doing now actually going to get us there? 

At FCC Granby we are navigating two staff transitions. In December 2018, Rev. Dr. Ginny McDaniel retired after serving seven years as Senior Minister. This past Sunday, Rev. Rebecca Brown retired after serving four years as Minister for Children and Youth. Each minister has been honored by the congregation for her service. Each minister has made a lasting difference for the good of the congregation. We are grateful for who they are and what they’ve done. Ginny has gone through a process of leave-taking following the United Church of Christ “Ethical Guidelines for Ministers Departing from Congregations.” Rebecca is currently in that process. It is a multi-layered process that involves public liturgy, compiling and handing over work product (such as lists of pastoral needs, event calendars, contact information, meeting notes, etc), participating in an exit interview, dealing with the administrative details of changing employment status with the denomination. All of these are steps in a larger transition that involves a change in identity: from pastor to former pastor. This change in identity is attended by a shift in how former pastor and former congregation relate to each other. The “Ethical Guidelines” are intended to ensure that this transition happens and that it happens in a healthy way.

Here’s a refresher on transition and change: transition and change are different. Change is situational. Transition is psychological. Change is some new guy is doing the preaching now. Transition is letting go of one pastoral relationship and building another. William Bridges in his book Managing Transitions writes, “It’s not the change that will do you in, it’s the transition.” Transition “is a three-phase process (letting go, chaos, new beginning) that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.” As a congregation, we are definitely still “internalizing” and “coming to terms with the details” of shifting from a settled minister to transitional minister, from a minister for youth and children to a new staffing configuration for Christian Education which may, at some point, involve a partnership with South Church. 

On some level, for each of us, transition involves building a new identity. For example, I am no longer the Transitional Senior Minister of FCC Stamford. As much as I love the people there, I’ve had to let those relationships go so that I can be fully present to my new call as Transitional Senior Minister of FCC Granby. Without letting go, there is no new beginning. In a similar way the members of FCC Granby are no longer Ginny’s or Rebecca’s parishioners and Ginny and Rebecca are no longer FCC Granby’s pastors. It’s not that those relationships are ended. Cut off is rarely helpful. But there needs to be a release. I’m a Gen-Xer, so my popular culture reference for this is Sting’s song, “If you love somebody, set them free.”

It’s natural for this shift in identity to generate resistance, but that’s the reality of congregational life. Identity shifts also generate grief to which we all need to tend carefully. Ginny’s circumstance is special given her health circumstance. Linda Betsch will be coordinating care for her. But the fact remains: none of us is permanent; everyone is temporary. Which makes our time together all the more precious. Now, for better or for worse, we belong together–transitional minister and congregation. Let’s make the most of the time we have. Time passes swiftly. Opportunity is lost. And God has big plans for us.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 8-19-18

Liv (wearing her Occidental College hat) and me cheering on the Hartford Yardgoats

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 8-19-18

We’ve been preparing all summer. Perhaps even longer than that: since high school graduation, or maybe a year ago when Olivia and I flew to LA to visit Occidental College. We could dial it back even further: to the moment I first met newborn Olivia, held her, and knew in my heart that one day life would ask me to let her go. 

Tomorrow Nicole–my wife, Olivia’s mom–will fly with Liv to LA and move her into her freshman dorm. A couple weeks from now Nicole and I will move Liv’s older sister, Fiona, to Williams’ College for her senior year. Though it’s been happening in stages, the nest continues to empty.

Moving one’s youngest to LA to begin college is both a “change” and a “transition.” Transition and change are related but different concepts. In his book Managing Transitions, William Bridges writes, “It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.” Bridges defines “change” as “situational” and “transition” as “psychological.”

Change is starting a new job, moving to a new location, receiving a new diagnosis, welcoming a new family member, saying goodbye. Change can be big or small, welcome or unwelcome, pleasant or unpleasant. Change is the nature of reality. Change just is.

Transition, according to Bridges, “is a three-phase process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.” Change is moving Olivia to LA. Transition is coming to terms with a new identity: empty nester. The three phase process is 1) ending/losing/letting go, 2) “the neutral zone (chaos),” and 3) new beginning.

Change and transition happen on a personal level. They also happen in organizations. As your transitional minister, it is my job to help FCC Granby identify the kinds of changes our situation is calling for and then lead a transition through the three phases: ending, chaos, new beginning. 

The distinction between change and transition is key because without that understanding, what most churches do is rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. They change their by-laws so that “committees” are now called “ministry teams.” They use different words for Communion or change the words of familiar hymns. They develop new programs that focus on the same people. They may even merge with another congregation but because there is no process of transition, the newly merged congregation just ends up being a dying, mashed up, grumpy repeat of the old ones. In dying churches there is often a ton of change but none that leads to a fundamentally new sense of purpose and identity. For that, one needs to go through transition.

As your transitional minister, I am not particularly focused on surface level change. Is whether we sing the Doxology following the offering or some other reponse really going to turn this church around? Is focusing on food insecurity instead of homelessness really going to be the key to a sustainable future? Is changing the words to Communion suddenly going to bring in the crowds? Usually when someone gives me permission to change something, it’s surface change. However, when I change something and the congregation says, “Change back,” then I know we’re into transition territory because what we resist is not “change” per se, but change that results in loss of some kind, exactly the kind of loss that is the beginning of transition.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 7-15-19

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 7-15-19

Sunday we continue our “My Favorite Scripture” sermon series. This week we’ll be looking at Luke 9:57-62, focusing particularly on verse 62: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” This Scripture is a favorite of Ann Wilhelm.

Ann found this Scripture inscribed in the cover of her father’s childhood Bible. Ann’s father, Fred, and his wife, Edith, who was a refugee from Nazi Germany, bought a farm in Granby on which they raised Ann and her siblings. Today Ann and her husband Bill Bentley own and manage the family farm. This Scripture came to mind as Ann was thinking about FCC Granby and her role in the church’s transition to a new way of being.

For me, this Scripture points to the tendency of people and congregations in transition to hedge our bets. As the familiar hymn says, “Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.” But we don’t want to let go of it all. We don’t want to turn our church over to Jesus and let him have his way with us. What if something happens I don’t like? What if I’m asked to give up something important to me personally? So there’s a lot of bargaining that goes on in church transition. Not surprising, since bargaining is one of the stages of grief. And transition always involves loss and grief.

But I want to hear Ann’s thoughts. And I want you to hear them, too. So this Sunday we will be doing something a little different with the sermon. Ann and I will be sharing the sermon as a “sacred conversation.” It’s a kind of semi-scripted dialogue in which together Ann and I will be reflecting on the Scripture and its connection to our life as a congregation. I look forward to a great conversation!

By the time you receive this I will have taken a couple days of meditation retreat. I’m grateful for the opportunity to go deeper spiritually so that I can lead the congregation in deepening our connection with God. Successful congregational transition requires that we go in two directions at once. We need to go deeper spiritually because transition is incredibly difficult and demanding. We need to get spiritually “fit” for the kingdom of God so that we can meet the demands of the work ahead of us. We also need to go outward relationally to connect with our neighbors. As I said this past Sunday: the future of FCC Granby lies with the people who are not yet members of our congregation.