“Transformation begins with endings.” Peter L. Steinke, A Door Set Open: Grounding Change in Mission and Hope, p. 59
The bishop has us clergy types reading this book and then, at various times and places throughout the diocese, we're going to get together and discuss it. Nothing is as constant as change, and we seem to be living in rapidly changing times – culturally, religiously, environmentally, technologically, and probably any otherally you can think of. So we're reading this book to see what we might learn about and how we might deal with the changing landscape in our particular situations.
It's not a bad book, and I've found some nuggets in there – like the one above.
One of the positive things about change is that it reminds us we are alive. If you are a living organism, you are changing. This can be exciting: we change from crawling to walking to driving; we change from dependent to independent; we change in many and varied ways throughout our lives. And sometimes that change can feel like Easter morning – new and revitalized and full of life.
But the thing we need to remember is that when one door opens, another closes. When we move to independence, we forgo our dependence. When we move into a new phase, the old part is often left behind. When we are resurrected, we must have necessarily died. To get to Easter you have to go through Good Friday.
Change can be new and exciting, but if we focus only on the new and exciting change, if we focus only on the resurrection, we miss both the opportunity and crucial need to mourn and say goodbye. This is true of both people and institutions. We do this with people at funerals and memorials services. Even though we know life is changed, not ended, we need to take time to mourn and say goodbye.
It's a little trickier with institutions like the church. The church is full of people who want things to stay the same for ever and ever, or to at least remain like the church of their memories. But the church is also full of people who age and change over time and with people who come and go. It is a living organism; which then makes change inevitable.
Change will happen. Resurrection will happen. But let's not forget the value of mourning and saying goodbye to what was lost or left behind. Because it may be only in our ability to say goodbye that allows us to move forward.