Navigating Through Fog – By Rev. Alan Mead
A couple of days ago a heavy fog rolled in off the Bay. It came suddenly. One minute it was simply a gray and overcast day, and then, next I looked, it was a cloud that obscured everything farther away than a few feet. It was a great time, I decided to go for a walk.
As I was walking along the Bay I could see and hear the white crest of rolling, crashing surf and on my other side, the beach with condos and homes and hotels. At least I knew they were there, although I only saw them fleetingly. It was fun walking in the fog along a familiar path, with the sound of the crashing surf to guide me and help me keep my bearings. As I walked, I reflected how different it might be if I were walking in unfamiliar territory, if I didn’t know the landmarks and have the ever present sound of wind and tide-driven surf rolling and crashing a few inches from my feet.
The fog that rolls in from the sea obscures everything in the distance and softens that which is close. I was surprised to learn, later, how many different types of fog can be formed by water and moisture-laden air when temperature differences collide.
And then I thought of a different kind of fog, the fog in a congregation or community when people hide shame or fear or failure or inadequacy, and of course many know it; but the stranger, the visitor can wander without bearings, and sometimes stumble or even crash. I have seen and navigated that kind of fog too, the fog that is intended to obscure, to hide, and desires light and visibility and healing and yet somehow all remain captive, locked in to the secret until no one knows where it has come and how it began, it simply is, and life can be a gray shadowland until whatever is unbalanced or in conflict can be seen and healed and restored.
My prayers of gratitude today for all in interim ministry, navigating new shoals and barriers, learning landmarks, bringing a beacon of light and hope as heritage and future are discovered or seen anew and welcomed.
A Brief Encounter – By Rev. Alan Mead
We were behind 65 cars and 3 tractor trailers, a line that stretched along the side of a narrow roadway from the pier where the ferry to Grand Manan was to arrive in 45 minutes. This was our first trip to Grand Manan, an Island in the Bay of Fundy, and I was excited. I had seen it many times on a map and often spoke to Pat about making it a destination sometime; but getting there involved purpose and commitment, involving expense and at least one day of travel.
I thought we had arrived early and was surprised at how far back from the ferry dock we were. There was a red pickup truck in front of us. The driver, an elderly man, was standing outside his vehicle and I joined him, asking if he had been to Grand Manan before. He said he lived there and was returning after a shopping trip to the mainland. We talked for some time, he telling me about Grand Manan, a small Island with three fishing villages, a Provincial Park, a nursing home where his wife was resident, one motel and no bars. As we talked he told of his career manning the lighthouse on an isolated small Island, of his lifetime of maintaining the light, and of the life that he and his wife had shared in that setting, and how that way of life was now disappearing.
As we talked, I was surprised at how quickly the time passed. He mesmerized me with his stories of a life so different than most of us experience. His eyes seemed to reflect the sea as he looked off into the distance. I wondered what he saw. I don’t remember his name; but I still remember him, a man going home.
A Moment of Thankfulness – By Rev. Alan Mead
I remember a camping trip to Grand Manan, in the late summer, almost fall, when at night it was cold enough to need a jacket, and the vast blackness of the night sky was filled with the shining light of countless stars. We sat around a warm fire and watched with joy and wonder and awe the vast display of light that we so seldom see, and I remember, at that moment, as a shooting star flared in a brief dance across the sky, to be thankful.
Morning Solitude – By Rev. Alan Mead
Early morning has become a time of solitude for me. During the summer months, when the sun rises before 6 AM we found ourselves waking with the first hint of light, dressing quickly, and beginning our morning walk just in time to see the sunrise. As we walked together we would talk occasionally; but mostly walk in silence, listening to the sounds of birds and sea. For me, this was a magical time, a time shared with the one I love; but also of deep reflection and prayer, in rhythm with our pace and with nature around us. Of course as the days grew shorter, the cold winter winds became more than a hint, and the reality of caring for a three year old when his parents leave for their work, our walks began to take their seasonal hiatus.
As summer turned to fall I found myself continuing to rise early, seeking moments of solitude before daylight brings activity and responsibilities. I have found this time, alone in the early morning darkness, to be full and layered, with moments of reflection and moments that are not of thoughts or memories or plans; but flicker in the flames of a warming fire and wander the night sky with the wind. It has become a time that calls to me, waking me earlier, lifting me, not simply in preparation for a new day or for getting something done; but for being, for a few moments, simply me, alone in the silence that when I listen is a symphony.
Learning to Lead Change – By Rev. Alan Mead
Would it make much difference to a congregation if a curtain on a stage is blue or maroon? Probably not; but change in color was one more sign that the congregation was in the midst of larger changes, of new members becoming involved and bringing new ideas and expectations and, yes, probably forming new traditions too.
Leading a congregation through change is an important part of being a minister. It is often not taught at seminary. It is learned, sometimes, by listening to the people around us and by reflecting on our experience, and by reading an emerging literature, especially in the corporate world, about how to manage change for growth and health and even for survival.
In our situation I think we all learned from each other. Since then, I have been motivated to read more about how to lead change and how to live with change, which is another but related reality of life, personally and within communities of faith. One thing that I have always tried to do since is to have key leadership bodies spend their time and energy on the larger, more important issues such as mission rather than having twelve high powered individuals spend valuable meeting time deciding what color to choose for a fabric. Choosing to renovate an area and deciding how to fund a renovation is appropriate for a board; getting into color choice may work better being managed by a smaller group of knowledgable people assigned by the board.
Helping people to understand and embrace something larger, something calling for our commitment and sacrifice, something that engages our minds, imaginations and treasure, is what I choose to be about in ministry. It sure beats trying to mend breaches that occur after factions disagree over non essential choices. Better to lead change directly rather than react to predictable results of inertia.
There are several books by John Kotter that would be a good place to begin if you desire to learn more about leading change today.