There's not one of us who hasn't experienced the unsettling emotion that comes when he or she is forced to make or accept a lifestyle change.
Change may come in the form of a new school, a death of a loved one or friend, a new addition in the family or the loss of a job. Many life changes occur during the summer months, so even those who are longtime members of our churches may be joining us in new ways and in new places in their lives.
How will we welcome those whom we know, but who are in new places in their lives this fall?
The UCC's national setting is experiencing change, too. Due to major restructuring, almost half of those working in Cleveland are new faces. They bring with them new ideas, new energy, fresh perspectives and an excitement about being called to serve, one that is both encouraging and refreshing. How will we welcome them?
Many of those who were once a part of the "old structure" are now in new positions, some with very different responsibilities, new colleagues and even perhaps a different work space. How will we enable those who continued from the "old structure" to move beyond old stereotypes and boundaries?
It's not easy being new. My guess is that all of us can remember a time in our lives when we were the stranger and the sense of the unknown was a bit unsettling if not downright frightening. Newness challenges the status quo, generating excitement for some and nervousness for others. It has an uncanny way of making the old look better than it ever was in reality.
Churches can welcome the new in numerous ways. If successful, folks will stay and begin to feel a vital part of that particular community of faith. If unsuccessful, those new faces will become disillusioned and never fully become part of our church life.
The five offices of the Collegium are convinced that organizational change doesn't happen just because an organization restructures. It is a process. Only when it is intentional, with a long-term commitment, do we actually see organizational transformation occur. In the national setting, September marks the time when all staff, new and old, will begin orienting to the vision that created the new structure. We plan to spend much of the month engaging staff in a process that allows them to be participants in continuing the formation of that vision and claiming it as their own.
This fall, wherever we are, I hope that everyone will prepare to welcome those who are new to our communities, our schools, our neighborhoods or places of work. And even as we prepare to embrace the new, we do so remembering that God is a God who never changes, yet who also makes all things new.
Edith A. Guffey is Associate General Minister of the United Church of Christ.