I prefer “transition” to “change,” for a transition implies intention. Change is our only constant. But “transition” means to go or cross over, implying agency. In the congregation I serve, we are transitioning due to our increasing size. We just crossed over the 200-member mark. It is an exciting time, and we want to be proactive with our plans.
As part of our growth, we dream about bringing to life to a second Sunday morning service. Currently, worship begins at 10:30 because, just a few years ago, the congregation met in a fish restaurant and needed to be cleared out before the first customers arrived at noon. 10:30 is part of our creation story, and such stories are some of our best prayers.
But we are learning than an extra half an hour makes a difference when considering an early service, for we have to plan Sunday school, choir rehearsal, bell rehearsal and fellowship time. Should we push the service back to 11 a.m.?
We are being intentional about giving space for as many people as possible to weigh in with thoughts, questions and opinions. Every committee is holding a discussion. I am also hosting online conversations through Google chat, so others can offer their feedback. I don’t know when we will add a second service (or, if we will, for that matter), but this process itself holds promise for our ministry. As I step back and look at this, I realize that, by thinking we were heading toward a certain goal, we are working on ways to be more inclusive and, therefore, more faithful.
Musing, I look up metabaino in my trusty lexicon, which is the New Testament Greek verb for “crossing over into a different place.” The Gospel of Matthew uses this verb literally, describing the movements of our peripatetic Lord. But metabaino describes a different sort of transition in John. The evangelist employs this same verb to imagine Jesus crossing over from this world and going to the Father (John 13:1). This transition verse immediately leads to the first foot-washing (John 13:3ff). Such servant leadership is a striking model of transitional ministry.
But, when I think of the word “transition,” I remember the time in active labor when a pregnant woman is about to cross over into pushing. I had read about this, but the first time I witnessed this transition, my wife let out a blood-curling scream and I fainted there in the hospital room! Smelling salts revived me, and I looked up at a circle of grinning nurses. “Oh, you men,” one of these women laughed, “The Good Lord certainly wouldn’t have trusted y’all with giving birth!”
To be sure, we can be intentionally inclusive and seek to serve others. But, as the Good Lord knows, the reality of something is quite different. Come what may in our labors, it helps to keep a sense of humor.
ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN is pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church, a congregation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and has a certificate in narrative healthcare. His recent essays have been published online at Mockingbird and his poetry at Bearings. He and his wife, Ginny, have three children.