From “If Only” To “What If”

Here is a wonderful  article written by our Association Minister, Rev. Jeanny House. Check out her web site:

“CLICK!”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

From “If Only” to “What If” — Changing the Dream

Ten people sat around the table in the church’s Fellowship Hall.  Together the members of the church council represented about 25% of the church’s total active membership and about 50-75% of its average weekly worship attendance.  Their pastor had just moved on, and they had invited me there to talk about options for pastoral leadership. I knew that what I was really there to talk about was change.

For nearly nine years, it has been part of my job to sit around these tables and have these conversations in United Church of Christ congregations around Northern Wisconsin.  As rural populations decline and cultural paradigms shift, many of our churches are shrinking.  Of the fifteen open pulpits I will leave as I wind up my work by the end of June, nearly half will only be able to afford part-time pastors.  Most of them perceive the need to move from full-time to part-time as a huge step backwards, as a failure.  “If only,” they say.  If only we had had the right pastor, if only the plant hadn’t closed, if only people were still as committed to anything as they used to be, if only they didn’t have soccer games/hockey practice/golf tournaments/5k races on Sunday mornings, if only. . . , if only. . . , if only.
“If only” blames external factors for internal changes nearly every time.  “If only” makes us the victims of change.
What would make us, instead, the partners of change?
Maybe it’s “What if?”  What if we each started doing what we really love in church?  What if we didn’t get so bogged down with routine maintenance and got time to explore the faith that brings us here?  What if we let ourselves dream about a different way to be the church? What might worship look like if we took it on as laypeople?  What if we began to see ourselves as a true community – invitational, hospitable, gracious, forgiving? What if we really started living in alignment with our highest and deepest values?  What if. . . , what if . . ., what if . . .?
Change happens.  Will you be its victim or its partner?  The choice is up to you.
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