Written by Patrick Duggan
If you can keep your head when all around you others are losing theirs . . . These words from the first line of Rudyard Kipling 's iconic poem “If” have inspired me since I was in grade school. These are words of solace for me in times of stress, tumult and transition. Times like now.
Sheila Kinzer was a long-term Church Building & Loan Fund senior staffer; a person who represented the best of the many ways that the national setting relates to conferences and local congregations around the country. Sheila died suddenly and unexpectedly just weeks ago. In addition to her close-knit family, Sheila’s departure was felt deeply by her co-workers at the church house, and by the dozens of congregations and church leaders she helped in the church building process.
Beyond the personal grief, Sheila took with her 15 years of institutional memory: the “secret sauce” of how to work with congregational leaders struggling with critical decisions that affect the advancement of mission, the lives of people served, and the deployment of millions of dollars for the glory of God. Thankfully, Sheila was generous in sharing her experience and insight, enabling her co-workers to continue the important mission and ministry she poured her life into. Because of Sheila’s gift to us, the advancement of the mission she treasured goes on.
I am so grateful that Sheila taught us how to keep our heads in seasons of distress and grief. Does it not seem that the church has been in such a season for decades? Indeed. It is also true, however, that we serve an extraordinary God who has called ordinary human beings to a world-transforming mission. And not only that, God has equipped us with the Holy Spirit, who knows exactly how to use our talents and our flaws, our heads and our hearts, to advance God’s mission on earth. Even when we mess up, God uses our mess to bless!
“Keep your head.” Perhaps there is no greater lesson for church leaders today as we grapple with issues that will determine who and what the church will be beyond this time of trouble.
Sparking Ministry Conversations
Which nagging church issues rattle you to your core? What spiritual and other resources do you use to help you keep your head in times of trouble? How may unexpected, difficult life transitions become opportunities for deeper reflection and a new way of being for individuals and congregations?