Last year (or was it the year before), five of us from the church attended three webinars intended to help congregations manage the change, grief and other emotions associated with the pandemic. The leader of the first session leaned heavily on a book called, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges. The book was written over 40 years ago and is still relied on by individuals and organizations seeking to understand and manage the transitions that are part of simply being alive. I finally got the book and began reading it very recently.
One of the primary admonitions of the webinar leader AND the book is not to rush through a transition. Even before the pandemic shut-down orders were lifted, our society was rushing to “What’s next”, “Let’s just get over this”, etc. When individuals and societies don’t really face an end and do the work of transition, genuine beginnings are hard to come by. There is a tendency to simply go back to what we knew, what we did, and what we considered normal.
Instead, we need to allow time in what the author calls “the neutral zone”. Most people do not want to inhabit this space because it is uncomfortable. It is filled with uncertainty, tensions, and the sin of sins in our society – unproductivity. The leader of the webinar urged us to embrace this in-between time and space.
She said things like: Put the should on the shelf. Notice versus conclude. Ask hard questions and answer truthfully. What is essential? What is the need for the now? What is ending? What has ended? (even before the pandemic)
Christian Women’s Fellowship (known as Disciples Women in the rest of the denomination) ended a long time ago. Or did it? It is still alive in the imaginations of those who participated and appreciated that ministry. As a different approach to bringing women together begins to emerge, will some of us be tempted to revert to familiar and comfortable ways of gathering and naming that demonstrate we haven’t really transitioned to a new beginning?
Even as we re-imagine a ministry of spiritual formation for children of a certain age grouping, I wonder if we are going back to something that ended or really re-imagining something that is a beginning. It is in large part staff-driven, but it wouldn’t be possible unless there were lay people ready and willing to be part of the planning and implementation. I hope and pray it is a genuine beginning and not a reverting.
Personally, it feels like my entire life has been one big transition. It is so tempting to want a time that is settled and secure. Maybe this is what Sabbath is for. The space and time to simply be and remember that God is God, life is a gift, and the journey is the destination.