CHANGE .. Change theorists distinguish between changes we choose to make and change which is forced upon us. They also distinguish between incremental or continuous change – change that happens slowly over time (as children grow up), discontinuous change – when we change our car or mobile phone or supermarket maybe, and radical change – when we move house, a family bereavement or divorce, when we give up driving altogether etc. We can see also that there are expected changes and unexpected changes, those we have planned for and those that catch us.
A village community experiences change, just like individuals, gradual change, more sudden changes and even radical change. We see new houses built on sites that used to be mills, we see an increase in traffic, the closure of a pub; a new vicar or a new head-teacher; a drought that reminds us what was under the reservoirs; a storm that destroys trees or changes a water-course.
Some of us like changes and see change as bringing freshness – others much prefer things to stay the way we want them. Think those who are excited by new technology, the latest gadget, and those who have just got used to the old one, and who still like their CD player or even record-player.
The Church of England is wrestling with change, changes it chooses to make, changes forced upon it and changes required because the world around has changed, but no one is sure what those changes should be. Some want the church to remain the bastion of tradition, somewhere to go when everything else is changing; others wish it would change faster and be more in tune with the modern world.
Some see change as a one-directional flowing river, we constantly move on – we can’t go back. Others see it more as a pendulum where big ideas swing one way and then the other – just wait a while and it will go back more how it was. Some fear there is a secret plan that people in power are executing, while others prefer the cock-up theory – that plans for change are not well-thought-through at all. What all this has in common is a feeling that change is out of our control, that we get ‘done to’ by change; local churches can feel this way when the diocese is reorganising how parishes are grouped, or when the “centre” sends out new directives and vision-statements etc; congregations may feel the vicar has a plan, but not coming clean. It is the same for lots of local organisations – we often have an uneasy relationship with the centre, the head-quarters, those who run the bigger operations, those who appear to be (more) in charge.
We can feel dispirited yet not feel we have the energy to go to meetings to complain – what difference will it make?!We may feel the same about politics and government, whatever party we support.
God has made us with the ability to change, and cope with change – our bodies grow and our minds develop, our personalities form and re-form; we have the resilience and freedom to engage in change and to resist change (to some extent); we have remarkable adaptability as individuals and as groups and a community, we have the freedom to change, but we are also impacted by change. In fact, change is a sign of inner life; in order to grow, living things have to change. For Christians, Jesus has shared our life, with its changes, its challenges, its enforced changes from others; God’s Spirit is with us through all the changing scenes of life; God’s promises are secure whatever happens; even the ultimate challenge of change, death, is within God’s power, and we are held in and through death into new life. This doesn’t solve all the challenges of change, but God’s presence in and through change gives us peace, confidence and hope even despite what is happening around us.