During the past three months as interim general presbyter of Grace Presbytery, I have found myself spiritually, vocationally, emotionally, and geographically in transition.
I moved from Wyoming where the total number of people in the whole state is about the population of Irving. I learned where the basics of life can be found in a brand new place. I have gone from living with my wife full time to living mostly alone. I see her only for sporadic weekends, while she prepared to sell our home in Wyoming and is now in Colorado looking for a home for the next chapter of our lives.
I am learning to navigate the increasingly tense traffic, the geography of a new land, and the cultures of Tyler, Temple, Dallas and Fort Worth and surrounding areas. And then there is the joy, complexity, and challenge of 137 churches and a staff of 13. Add the the recent Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse and its impact on all of us – especially our 27 churches with burst pipes, and then the arrival of 2,300 migrant boys at the Dallas Convention Center.
Honestly, my story is pretty normal.
Our churches are in transition – many walking towards a leveled, phased approach to get back to worship and gathering together in person. The questions are numerous: How do we do hybrid church? Will people come back or will they stay home and worship virtually as they linger in the comfort of their pajamas? How do we phase into the new normal? How do we lead when we don’t know where we’re going? What will our ministries look like?
Now multiply this with all your personal and our cultural, political, and relational transitions. Change is a constant part of life. And our stories are normal – along with the stories of Easter disciples. Imagine being Mary Magdalene, Peter, John or Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Jesus was alive, and he embodied faith in a way that had not been seen before. He was dynamic and real, not fake or putting on a good ego mask. He welcomed all, even those rejected and labeled by the insiders. He engaged those with power and empowered those on the margins. And then he was dead… crucified by the religious leaders… then he was risen from the dead! The followers of Jesus knew what to do with a dead person. They didn’t know what to do with a resurrected Lord.
In all of our stories, transitions are difficult at best. We become irritable, uncomfortable, and edgy. We are sometimes triggered. We often feel lost, especially when we can’t see our hand in front of our face. We huddle and shake in fear. We hide behind closed, locked doors. We revert to what we did before, just like Peter, James and John went fishing again. We gather in rooms with like-minded people, waiting. Waiting for what comes next.
When we are in transition, Christ comes among us and says in some way or another the three things that are recorded in John 20:
1) “Peace be with you.”
2) “As the Father has sent me so I send you,” and
3) “ Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Know God is with you. Go and be part of God’s mission of new life for this world. Peter Steinke said, “Easter is about God’s new creation and the calling of believers to be agents of the kingdom.” Breathe and be empowered by the Spirit.
It is not “one and done” with transition. We usually don’t move from unease to confidence, and from lostness to a new way of being, in one or two or even three steps. It takes a little time. We experiment. We learn. We live into a new way of thinking and being.
In this Easter journey, let’s keep our focus simple – be connected with God and with a community of supportive and life-giving people, while we deal with the complexity of the swirling transitions we are facing!
It is a joy being with you through this part of Grace Presbytery’s story!
Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Shive serves as interim general presbyter for Grace Presbytery. Prior to his arrival in Texas, he led the Presbytery of Wyoming as general presbyter. Steve is husband of 35 years to Doris, father to Claire and Jordan, and a proud Auburn war eagle.