Reflection Connection

Reflections

January 25th Reflection
January 25, 2015
by Rev. Alan Mead
We all experience times of transition, and sometimes we learn from our experience. Whether we learn or not, as we experience change we are changed also. I remember when we moved from a small village where we lived in the same house as my grandmother, next door to my aunt and uncle and four cousins, across the street from where my father worked, and from where I attended school. Another uncle owned a general store where retired men gathered in the cold months around an old pot belly wood stove, telling wonderful stories, and where everyone knew me and I always was asked to choose a penny candy from the enormous glass bins before I left the store.I was eight years old, it was spring, and I learned two new realities: my mother was going to have another baby and we were moving to the city, about 45 minutes away from where we lived and from everything that I knew. My, how my world changed!To say that I was in a tailspin would be an understatement. In fact, I was several years adjusting to the changes and realized much later, as an adult, that I was still working through my feelings, about what happened, and also about my response to change and moving, particularly my ability to say goodbye and to release the past as I learned to embrace the present.As an intentional interim I soon realized that if I was to minister in a healthy and effective way I had to resolve some of my own issues concerning saying goodbye, leaving, and beginning anew. While this process has involved painful moments as I have learned to accept the part of me that wants everything to stay the same, the part of me that wants to remain in control, I have learned to let it be, to accept my feelings and memories as something to be thankful for as they remain with me. I have also learned that friendships, while losing the immediacy of close contact, remain constant and are a source of ongoing support.As we learn more about ourselves and our own history regarding change, we find that we are able to help others navigate change, as individuals and as congregations.

January 24th Reflection
January 24, 2015
by Rev. Alan Mead

It began raining before I awoke, before the morning light filtered through the closed shutters. It is now mid morning and the rain continues on and off. The wind, coming off the Bay is gusty and has been growing in strength. It is the kind of day where a cozy fire and easy chair beckon.I read again in Mark’s Gospel of Jesus calling Simon and Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and of their leaving the familiar and perhaps the comfortable to follow Jesus. In my mind I see the sun shining, perhaps a puffy cloud or two along the horizon. It is interesting to me that have never pictured this scene as overcast, brooding, or stormy.As I have watched the fishermen along our beach I have become aware of how hard and long their work is. Their hands are rough and chapped from the work and the weather. After their haul, besides separating and preparing the fish, there are long tedious tasks of cleaning and repairing nets.Powerful words, “Follow me.”Challenging words, “…and I will make you fish for people.”I have a large oil painting in my living room. It is a scene of a fishing boat with four men straining to haul in a net. The sea is active although not roiled, and the colors are more brooding than bright. The entire painting conveys a mood of laboring in the midst of obstacles, including the weather. When you make your living from the sea it is not only during the lovely, peaceful days that you fish; but also on days when hearth and fire beckon. Although we see the men straining we see nothing of a catch. There are no fish in the painting.Is fishing for people as hard as the work of fishing in the sea for fish?

And what was it like for Simon and Andrew, James and John, in the transition between choosing to follow and actually beginning to fish for people? What did they have to unlearn? What did they have to understand and adapt to this challenging new application?

May we be filled with hope and may we keep our hearts focused on that harvest yet unseen. May the God who calls us renew within us a joy in serving as we create opportunity for celebration and mission to thrive during times of transition.

January 23rd Reflection
January 23, 2015
By Rev. Alan Mead
I read a blog entry on Huffington Post today, written by Mark Osler, relating his current experience in a church with an interim. Mark’s experience is negative and a conclusion he draws is that the transition process in congregations should be shortened considerably. I do notice that the author mentions in passing, and then glosses over, that the former rector left in a “messy” situation and that the two former associate clergy left soon after. Yikes! One interim, skilled or not, working a miracle in that congregation, seems to be a lot to ask. Perhaps this is something that must be the work of the entire congregation and not fall on the shoulders of the interim pastor. This is the kind of blog entry that makes sense on the surface; but when questioned more deeply, is not as simple as the blog entry would imply. My guess, and it’s a blind one, is that after a “messy” departure of all three clergy this congregation didn’t have, or didn’t want to commit the monetary resources necessary to have both a trained interim experienced in these kind of issues and conflicts, plus have new staff/clergy associates to keep the ongoing programatic and worship dynamic going strong in this parish while the interim engages the leadership and congregation in resolving/accepting whatever has happened and may currently be going on.This is a larger debate, whether anyone is completely right or wrong, than many of us would like to admit and, in some adjudicatory and congregational practice there is a scarcity of resources to really address and resolve underlying issues. Further, at least in the Episcopal Church, some dioceses are seeking different models, one of which is to place a priest in charge time certain (2 to 5 years) with the option of the congregation calling the priest as their next settled pastor. While this will work, at least on the surface, and does keep the bishop more in control, I do wonder if any clergy who is not specially trained in resolving conflict and, who wants to be called eventually as the settled pastor, will really do the hard and perhaps unpopular stuff necessary to deal with whatever is there, allowing it to once again go under the surface and lurk beneath, a secret always ready to pounce.Feedback from differing viewpoints is welcomed and encouraged. My own bias is that a trained and competent interim can be the most important asset an adjudicatory or congregation can have. It seems to me that larger issues that are often not answered involve paying for that level of skill and experience and finding resources to keep assisting clergy in multi-staff parishes during time of crisis is the best way forward for all.In my personal experience the transition time can be as creative and productive as any time in a congregation’s history. Discovering and appreciating the life, ministry and history within a congregation is a joy not only for the interim pastor; but for the congregation as well.
January 19th Reflections

January 19, 2015

By Rev. Alan Mead
I remember a conversation with my father’s Uncle Eddie that took place at his kitchen table just after his wife Charlotte’s funeral. I was rector of a small parish in upstate NY and my father and I had traveled to be there as soon as we heard the news. The funeral was beautiful, with Gospel music and a church packed to overflowing with people. My family and a few others who had traveled to be there were the only white people. Later, as we sat around Uncle Eddie’s kitchen table I listened carefully as my father and his cousin and Uncle Eddie spoke softly of family. Stories that were all new to me and gave definition to parts of my family that I didn’t know very well. I asked Uncle Eddie about his church and his community and why I didn’t see other white people. Uncle Eddie responded that he and Aunt Charlotte had moved there when they were married and raised their daughter in this house in Queens. They became active in their church and he became a lay leader, Sunday school teacher and pastoral visitor. He said that in the 1960’s a black family bought a home on his block and soon another black family moved to his neighborhood and within a short time after that every other white family had left that neighborhood. He said his neighborhood and his church became almost totally black. And then he said something that I will always remember. He said when his neighbors changed he and Charlotte decided they would have new neighbors and as his church changed they would have a new church family, and as his friends moved he would make new friends. I reflected on the love I had seen expressed for Uncle Eddie by his neighbors and church community and realized suddenly that he was one of those ordinary heroes who make a difference in the world by simple example as he lived through a time of profound transition.
January 18th Reflection
January 18, 2015
By Rev. Alan Mead 
Samuel became one of the great prophets in Israel, an individual whose primary job description would be to listen for the word of the Lord and proclaim what he heard. I find it encouraging that when Samuel first heard the Lord speak to him, calling him to service, he didn’t recognize the voice of the Holy, not once, or twice or even the third time! He thought his teacher was speaking. It was only after his teacher, Eli, advised him that it may be God speaking, that Samuel was able to imagine something greater than his expectations. Intentional interim ministry is centered in listening and recognizing the voice of the Holy in the midst of history and story in congregations and other faith communities during times of transition. As Samuel learned through his mentor and his experience to recognize the voice of the Holy, may each of us engaged in transition and interim ministry find encouragement as we connect with one another and share our experiences not only of recognizing the Holy; but also in helping others to hear and appreciate the many stories in congregations that quite naturally emerge during transition. In our stories we find the congregations story, and the voice of the Holy.
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