During the inevitable "look backs" at 2008, I heard one commentator say that "change" was the predominant theme of the year. If that is true, then 2009 must be the year that the "change" really takes place. Change is always a reality for us, isn't it?
People and perspectives change (thank God), the times change. We change jobs, our families change with births, deaths and all kinds of transitions that are part of the ebb and flow of our lives and our world.
These kinds of changes are inevitable, but there's also something to be said for being proactive about change - making change rather than waiting for change.
I hope in 2009 we make change. In our personal lives, absolutely, I have a whole list of changes that would be in my best interest. You perhaps have a list of your own. But I hope we also make some changes in our corporate lives as well.
Too often churches (and denominations) are passive recipients of change, we sit by the sidelines and are swept away by it, drown in it or bemoan the inevitability of it. But there are other options!
We can be the initiators of change; we can actually seek out new ways of ministry and see change as an exciting time of new possibilities and challenges.
Given the financial markets, most, if not all, of our congregations are being forced into change. We are being forced into new ways of being the Stillspeaking church with fewer resources, but an ever increasing need.
That alone doesn't mean that this can't be a time of rich possibilities. I am suggesting something more than making lemonade out of lemons. I am suggesting using this time to re-evaluate what is necessary and what is actually effective.
Maybe this is the time that we finally get out of the rut of "doing it this way because that's the way we've always done it." What changes might we intentionally make that will lead us into more effective ministry, even in a time of uncertainty?
Perhaps we might ask what we can do ecumenically and do it better and more effectively than continuing to work alone. Maybe this is a time to ask whether programs and dollars being used in a certain way is really making an impact and resulting in the transformational ministry that we had hoped. Maybe it's time to dust off those dreams that we said were too drastic, and take a look at what might really be an innovative way to use our building or to re-imagine what our particular communities really need and how we might be able to respond in new ways.
I admit that initiating change involves some risk, and to be honest, I'm not all that big of a risk taker. Sometimes I simply have to push myself and move forward in faith and not be afraid to fail.
I often tell myself that I have to take that risk because we simply can't do things the way we've always done them. The reality is that the world has already changed and continues to change. The question for us is, will we continue to run to keep up or will we begin to lead the way?
Associate General Minister Edith Guffey is a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.