June 2016 Vestry Papers: Transitions and Change

June 1, 2016

Change can be difficult. For church leaders – and parishioners – change may be particularly difficult when we say goodbye to a beloved rector or parts of our church life we have grown accustomed to.

What relationship does our approach to change have with our experience of it? Is it a threat? An invitation? Our articles this month suggest the latter.

The feelings of grief and loss that may accompany a clergy transition may also heighten levels of anxiety and stress. In “Expectations Matter: Choose Faith,” Dorothy “d’Rue” Hazel advocates for working through these feelings, offering strategies to help leaders focus on the new opportunities, the new life that awaits.

For some congregations, transition means giving up the familiar structure of full-time clergy as well as their understanding of the way authority and tasks are distributed. Susan Elliott’s “From Challenge to Opportunity” shares the wisdom and experience of congregational and diocesan leaders who have made this change.

When should a congregation begin to think about planning for a clergy transition? Susan Tamborini Czolgosz’s “Transition Planning” provides a framework for shifting thinking about a clergy transition, recasting it as a natural part of our common life with a process that flows from – rather than interrupts – our living into all that God is calling us to be.

With our final article we shift our focus to the practical: How might we equip ourselves to best respond to the changes we face? Perhaps, as Br. James Koester, SSJE, models in “Where is the Invitation Here?” we need to engage in listening, to ask ourselves “ to what is this challenge inviting them – me – us?”

We encourage you to think about how the ideas presented in this and every issue may provide an impetus for evaluating and reflecting on what you could learn from the experiences of others. To help in your discernment we offer a list of the resources related to the topic at the end of each article. If you have a resource you’d like to share, please email me with the link or add it to the site using the Your Turn feature.

If you are interested in Spanish language content, please visit our searchable index for our Spanish content here.

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Nancy Davidge
Editor, ECF Vital Practices