Once upon a time, I had a parishioner complain to me, “I knew you were going to change things. I just didn’t know it was going to be all at once!” At the time, her complaint seemed unwarranted to me. I did not feel that the changes were all at once at all. In fact, I was careful not to change things all at once, but made changes slowly and methodically. Though we talked through her concerns, I remember thinking flippantly that no one really likes change and perhaps that was the real source of her complaint.
This week, I have a lot more sympathy for that parishioner. My family’s life has been upended by change. Most of the change has been good – new jobs, new schools, and a new home. There has been a flurry of activity, and the excitement of a move has carried us through. Of course, I had forgotten how hard and time-consuming unpacking can be. I also totally forgot that our young children would be having their own reactions to the move. But we hit a breaking point Sunday night. Our two-year-old decided it would be a great time to finally figure out how to get out of her crib. So for about two hours we went back and forth trying to figure out ways to cajole her into going to sleep. Of course, the developmental milestone of getting out of one’s crib was to be expected. But that change on top of everything else made me want to cry, “I knew things were going to change. But does it have to be all at once?!?”
The truth is, I do not think that the pace of change really matters. I think what really matters is who gets to make the decision about the change. When we are making changes ourselves or when we have control over the decision among a group, change does not feel so unsettling. By having decision-making authority, we feel some modicum of control over the situation. But when someone else is making decisions that impact us and that change what we are used to, we feel powerless, even if the change is for the better.
Having had the experience with my two-year-old, I am reminded of my need to be sensitive to others’ feelings about change and control as I begin a new pastoral relationship at Hickory Neck Episcopal Church. Knowing how it feels to have everything changing at once, I will try to be more intentional about communicating, educating, and getting buy-in. Change is most certainly coming – for me and for the community. My hope is that we can love one another through the change and trust God and one another in the process. There will be times when change feels like it is happening all at once. But there will also be moments when we look back and say, “I guess that wasn’t so bad! In fact, it was really good.” Here’s to an exciting, supportive, and encouraging journey!