I am not an expert on change, although I coin myself a change agent. Someone
this week asked me, “What do you know about change management?” I am pretty
sure he asked me because he sees and experiences the change in the congregation
I serve right now. My response, knowing that it was a political way to engage me about all
the changes I have made, was, “Well, here is what I think about certain changes that I
have made.” Really, I don’t know anything about change management. Nonetheless,
here is what I said: If what I change can be reversed, then I go ahead and make the change
as an act of experiment. I tend to not quickly change something that is not irreversible--
especially in the early months of ministry. And that is what I know about change management.
Mostly, I just like to switch things up, bring creativity, make something new,
challenge folks, because if I know anything about faith formation and faith deepening,
those things only happen when we are challenged or have the courage to engage the unknown.
What I also know about the church universal is that what existed:
Before women worked full time
Before media took flight
Before schedules went like wildfire
Before busy was super cool
Before kids became smarter than adults
Before school expected child-experts
Before vacations became the new product to consume
Before the gap between the rich and the poor was not ocean wide
Before we heard the voices of the marginalized
Before underground cultures and communities were resurrected
provided a church that worked. What exists now in our culture means that we must change
the way church engages our culture. We could stay the same.
We could be that family or couple that gets dressed up on a Sunday morning.
The wife makes a hot breakfast, everyone goes to church because, literally
everyone is going to church- so there are no other competing activities. We could
be the family that comes, sits together- while children go to the Sunday school room with
volunteer mothers and a Sunday School superintendent. We could be the family that
comes and sings and everyone is perfectly well behaved. We could be that. The problem
is that such a family does not exist anymore, particularly in the progressive Christian traditions.
Women have been liberated
Consumerism is at an all time high
Academic and professional success is more important than community
The world wide web has all the answers
Every child is gifted
Traveling is more important than game night and roasting marshmallows all summer
The middle class is disappearing
We are actually hearing the stories of the marginalized and people are listening,
and that is scary and hard.
I know that change can be hard, but sometimes it is necessary. It is necessary to live a life of
authenticity and it is especially necessary for the church to begin to live authentically. I am
passionate about living an authentic faith and particularly in the church. Living a faith that is true
to who the individuals are and who and what the community is. Black Forest Community Church (BFCC)
made the hard journey to be an Open and Affirming Church of the United Church of Christ.
They lost pastors and they lost ⅔ of their members, which meant they lost resources, a lot of resources.
They lead in a way that was courageous and with strength of faith. And, they did this in northern
El Paso County, Colorado Springs, one of the most conservative counties in the country often known
as one of the Bible belts. They did this thing that was not sexy or consumer or flashy.
They did this Jesus thing. They got on the lowliest donkey and paraded through the wrong side of
town amongst the most marginalized of people and said, “here we are, God is love, this will save,
And, then they called a small, Italian, East Coast, women pastor that was excited to continue to
ride the donkey with them. To continue to parade with palms in hand and rainbow clothes
(or just maybe a flag) on the ground shouting “hosanna in the highest” or “here we are, we are
So, in response the BFCC’s Open and Affirming statement, I want to honor every piece of that
really hard and courageous decision. I want to honor the sacrifice of this little congregation.
I want to say: you made the choice, you held some space, now let’s do this. Because what existed
before can no longer exist.
In response, the flags in the sanctuary have come out, there new home is in the Old Log Church
In response, we have done a deployment blessing for our transgender friend going off to Afghanistan.
In response, we have provided a space for teens to liturgical dance as an act of “faith statement,”
instead of requiring the written word.
In response, we have lifted a rainbow banner above our front doors.
In response, we have created a space in our sanctuary for young children.
In response, we have posted signs on all our doors that say: This is a safe place…
In response, we have changed our prayers and other liturgies to inclusive language.
In response, we have put our pews in a sacred circle.
In response, we have put a rainbow flag on our website and change our logo to match those colors.
This June morning, we gathered for the first time in that sacred circle. The altar was in the center,
adorned with a cross made out of 100+ year wood from a member’s ranch and by that rancher,
t-candles and singing bowl. Children’s spirits made home in our prayer-ground and at times
their spirits over-flowed into the circle. The music was heard and embodied as we were facing
each other with voices shared in conversation. The sermon was spoken from our Associate
Conference Minister with stories and dialogue. We gathered in small groups and asked questions
like: why do you come to church, why this church and why do we exist? The energy was intoxicating.
Eighty of us engaged, some confused, some too loud, some overwhelmed, some with excitement,
some experiencing us for the first time (I wonder what they thought?!). What I know is that was church.
That was the church of the donkey and rainbow clothes and hosanna voices.
That was the church that the apostle Paul was called to create at times with fear and anxiety.
That was church, deeply human, deeply authentic, deeply real and very much what we need right
now in our culture. Absent of consumerism, absent of facts, absent of performance,
absent of segregation, absent of perfection.
This is what I believe the church is called to, in times such as these.