Transitioning towards hope and a future | By Joan Holms

I find myself thinking about transitions a lot these days.

There is a hint of autumn in the air – leaves are beginning to turn orange and as I step out of the house each morning, I see children heading out to begin a new school year. Whenever someone points out one of these signs of a changing season, my reaction is to place my hands over my ears and cry out, “Noooo, it’s too soon. Summer only just began.” Unfortunately, denial isn’t going to change this natural occurrence. I simply need to accept this reality. Summer will soon be over and autumn will arrive whether I like it or not.

As I write this article, I am reminded of the congregations across our Conference that are experiencing transitions of their own. Many of you welcomed a new pastor this summer and have spent the past couple of months getting to know one another. Others welcomed back a pastor who was reappointed and perhaps you have spent the summer enjoying picnics and other outings together. Either way, we all find ourselves embarking on another season in which events and activities will resume after a season of rest.

While transitions are a necessary part of life, even church life, they are not always easy. Sometimes a period of transition can be fraught with discomfort as we discover different styles of leading and new ways of being “church” together. In the church this can be a time in which new classes and committees are formed, bringing with them new leadership. At the conference level, especially in this new quadrennium, this means not only new leaders for our boards and agencies, but for the most part new members as well. It is a time in which we might reorganize ourselves and try new things. This is where it sometimes gets tricky.

As much as I like to try new things, I must admit that I am most comfortable when things remain the same. After 23 years of marriage, my husband and I are moving to a two-bedroom condo, the smallest residence we have ever lived in. One can accumulate a lot of “stuff” in 20 years! While at first I struggled with what to keep and what to let go of, I am now finding joy in cleaning out the excess and paring down to what’s essential. I have discovered some treasures that I had long ago forgotten – photos of grandparents I never had the opportunity to meet; fabric I stashed away for a special project; books I have wanted to re-read. Who knows what else we will discover once we make the transition? I’m becoming more and more excited to find out.

In the local church or in the Pacific Northwest Conference, we, too, may find that the transitions we are now making will open us up to discover something new. We may find reminders that God’s plan was working in us and through us all along. Any discomfort we felt was merely temporary and we will find new ways of being “church”.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

As we make this annual transition into autumn, I pray that we will discover God’s plan for us and for our churches and communities each step of the way. And in the meantime, we can hang onto this promise from Jeremiah.

Joan Holms serves as Conference lay leader for the PNWUMC.
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This article was originally presented in Channels 57. Download this issue, here.

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