Why are people so afraid of change? It is a natural occurrence in our lives yet when it is happening we often try and resist it. What kind of time and energy do we spend trying to avoid it when we never do stop CHANGE from happening? I think of aging as a perfect example. In our society we do everything we can to avoid the aging cycle. “Think facelifts.” We have seen how people become obsessed and we may even become obsessed in trying to avoid the natural progression of aging. Michael Singer, author of “The Untethered Soul,” believes that this avoidance causes you to lose track of your life’s purpose.
I have to agree when I think of Phoenix Rising UCC. It came into being because First Congregational Church, Haverhill stopped resisting the CHANGE going on around them. When they stopped avoiding the inevitable, they found the new path CHANGE had created and rediscovered the purpose of being Church.
Today, I had an interview with Ben Leubsdorf an economics reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Washington, D.C. Ben is working on a story about the process behind the decisions that some churches have made to create sacred space away from a traditional sanctuary building. How did the congregation reach those decisions – was it a financial issue or an outreach issue? What type of process was involved? These are the questions I addressed in the interview.
Phoenix Rising UCC was born out of the convergent changes in our world today. American churches have been in the throes of two recessions: A spiritual recession which seems to have begun in earnest in 2002 and the Great Recession which began sometime in 2007 when the Mortgage bubble burst. Another major contributing factor has be the telecommunications boom which exploded onto the scene in 1995. All of these factors have created a sea of CHANGE that has been unavoidable.
Individuals and institutions have tried to avoid these changes and have lost track of their vision and purpose. My friend and colleague Reverend Ian Lynch preached at my Ordination on October 5th. He started his sermon by saying, THE CHURCH IS DEAD” he went on to say if it isn’t dead it should be” His whole point was that the Church is meant to bring Good News and the good news is, When death comes Resurrection follows. Phoenix Rising is a story of death and resurrection. It was born out of the chaos and convulsion of change. The great worshiping oak is where the story of Phoenix Rising began with a few people who gathered under its branches in 1642 to worship. This great Oak has weathered much CHANGE in the city of Haverhill’s storied history. When you walk around the area one can’t help wondering how many of the oak trees that stand nearby are its offspring. Each of these trees began as a fallen acorn. Each had to die in order to release its DNA into the soil rising up and out, becoming the very thing it was intended to be. It is the natural progress of life.
Michael Singer also says, “Life is a natural unfolding of reality. You’re supposed to harmonize and work with it.” When we resist the very CHANGE our souls are begging for, we suffer disharmony and unrest, distress and fear. This becomes the lens by which we view our circumstances. When you are feeling pulled towards that new thing do not resist! When you step over the threshold you will begin to experience the wonderful transformation CHANGE can bring.
During my years with a company undergoing repeated incarnations under take-over corporations whose mottos were “change is good”, my mantra became, “Change is stressful. IMPROVEMENT is good.” Thanks for being the pivot point for this improvement of service in the image of Christ in Haverhill