Let’s make transition ‘transforming’
On the journey from endings to new beginnings, there comes a time when it becomes necessary to adapt to the changed environment in which we find ourselves. This is described by Leick and Davidsen-Nielsen, in their book Healing Pain, as “learning new skills”.
For example, when a long-term partner dies, the surviving spouse comes to the point where they have to learn the so-called “hard skills”, such as how to start the lawnmower, cook a decent meal or fill in the tax return.
There are also new “soft skills”, such as relating to the community again as a single person. This is particularly challenging when the person is still using a lot of energy in their grieving.
It’s not only about grieving.
When I became Moderator-elect, and realising that more would be required of me than ever before, one of the first things I did was sign up for the Lumosity brain-training program.
This computer-based program claims to enhance the mental skills of memory, flexibility, attention, speed and problem-solving. Progress is measured by improving one’s percentile ranking against people of ages within five years of one’s own (not that I am at all competitive!).
This reminds me of when Helen “encouraged” me to go for a hearing test. The result was that my hearing is normal … for my age.
I also found that in the new role my time on the golf course was much reduced. So Helen and I enrolled at the local gym and are learning to use all sorts of apparatus to help us keep fit.
Finally, different commuting routines necessitated some ingenuity regarding the devotional life. Building a labyrinth in the front yard has helped provide an easily accessible and inspiring place for meditation and prayer at various times of the day.
Our church is in many ways on such an “endings to new beginnings” journey.
Some changes are painful and some grief is expected. It is therefore most gratifying to see so many groups and individuals willing to engage with the process in new and creative ways.
It is also true that there are points of blockage in the process. I wrote last month about the abundant musical riches in our hymnal, Together in Song, and other contemporary resources that express Uniting Church ethos and theological breadth.
Amid all the encouraging things going on in congregations, my one significant disappointment is the slowness with which we as a church are embracing these excellent resources.
Yes, it takes work. In my last congregation I took singing lessons so as to be able, with the generous cooperation of the organists, to introduce some of this new music. That was rich learning for me; and the congregation got the benefit of the new music.
The commitment to learning new skills will help ensure that the journey will be one of transformation and not just transition. It will mean that we will not fall foul of the consequences of ignoring the warning: “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.”
The Rev. Dr Brian Brown is Moderator of the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT.