Navigating Change Together
August 1, 2022
By Pastor Chad Rademacher, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney
In her book How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, author Susan Beaumont discusses the liminal spaces many of us are facing. She writes, “How do you lead an organization stuck between an ending and a new beginning–when the old way of doing things no longer works but a way forward is not yet clear?” Beaumont calls such in-between times liminal seasons–threshold times when the continuity of tradition disintegrates, and uncertainty about the future fuels doubt and chaos. In a liminal season, it simply is not helpful to pretend we understand what needs to happen next.
There is one lesson that I have to learn over and over again, change happens. Most of us don’t deal well with change because it usually occurs when we least expect it. Coworkers are gone because the projected sales numbers didn’t hit their targets. A loved one dies unexpectedly on their way to work. A relationship has ended, and divorce papers will be signed.
Our congregations are no more exempt from change. We have been doing our best to deal with Covid and circumstances outside our control for two years. This is the transitional change that we are living in right now. Many of our congregations were forced to put an action plan into place overnight, and many leaders in our congregations feel tired, frustrated, and exhausted.
Our congregation in Sidney joined the Vitality Initiative through the Nebraska Synod, which has offered us a unique gift. This gift invited us to slow down rather than speed up. We don’t know where we are going, which is the beauty of this new threshold. We set out with zero expectations other than being gentle with ourselves and listening with compassion as we heard the Spirit’s voice.
I have often said that if we are going to be Easter people, we must go through the season of Lent. If we are going to see new life, we are going to suffer death. In the Gospel of John, Jesus commands Lazarus to come out (John 11:38), and Jesus commands them, “unbind him, and let him go.”
In this season of change, we are suffering death through the unexpected changes in our lives and congregations. This is the lesson I must remember; change happens, and death will come. Yet, I have faith and confidence that as Jesus calls us to come out of our caves, we will be surrounded by those who care for us by unbinding our bandages; and bringing us back from the dead with the gift of new life.
We don’t know who took off Lazarus’ bandages, which is this story’s gift; it leaves the imagination open. How are you tending to the wounds of others, and how are the others tending to your wounds? The gift of hospitality opens our hearts to care and be cared for, and in this love for neighbor, we find new ways to move forward together. Being Easter people means death and resurrection work hand in hand to bring forth God’s Kingdom and usher in something new.