By VicTas Synod Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis
Each new year brings a raft of articles, social media posts and lists of resolutions that invite us to change ourselves and our churches. Through them we are encouraged to think about our lives and how we can be a better version of ourselves.
As we think about change in the life of the church and in our own lives of discipleship it is wise to keep in mind that God’s loves for us and the gift of grace to us are just that: gifts. We don’t earn God’s grace and we can’t make God love us less no matter what we do, or fail to do.
Any commitment to changing how we express our discipleship or the way our community of faith lives its life should arise from this deep conviction, that we are loved, we are saved and we are held by God.
We seek to change, not to earn God’s love and salvation, but to better live into and share God’s love. Change is never for its own sake, but rather so that we might do, and be, in ways that help us lean into God’s love and share that love with the world.
A desire to do things differently, to develop or grow a spiritual practice or live as a disciple with new conviction or action springs from knowing ourselves as beloved of God and wanting to share God’s love in ways that might make sense to those we are wanting to share God’s love with.
We seek change in our own life of discipleship or in our community of faith because we want to join more with what God is already doing in the world to usher in God’s reign. We seek to grow into our discipleship as an individual or community so that our lives might more closely align to God’s ways of justice, mercy, peace.
If you believe you are called to make a change in your life or to help your community of faith to change and grow in response to God’s grace what are some things that might help with that change?
Most change is a series of small changes that lead incrementally to a big change. What are some actions you can take that will help you move towards the change you want to make?
How can you begin small and grow into the change you want to make? These small actions need to be repeated over and over so they become part of you and begin to tell a new narrative about ourselves and our community. So be patient and make a start.
People are more likely to change if we build relationships. If you are wanting to guide your community of faith through a change find some people who share your vision and work together to help others see the need for the change. Don’t use fear or other negative emotions to try and provoke change. Rather tell your story about why you want this change and invite them into your vision.
Look around for others who’ve made a similar type of change and see how they can help you. It might be another church or it might be a synagogue or temple. You might look at a kindergarten, scout groups or other community groups that have made a similar change.
Sometimes it’s good to look for a group that has some similarities with your community, but also some differences, because both can help you see the way forward for your community. Ask them to share their story, see if someone in the group can provide you with some coaching and support.
If you are seeking to grow your spiritual practices or develop your discipleship you might ask someone whose practice of faith you admire to support you and share the journey. You might consider some study to help you deepen your understanding and find companions. You might find an online group who will provide you with a community to share the way.
Through all our changes we have the gift of hope. Hope that God is with us, that God’s Spirit softens our hearts and lives to God’s ways, and that Jesus Christ has already saved us and is renewing us. This hope strengthens and sustains us for whatever the new year holds.