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The Art and Craft of Navigation

In my early 20's my then-husband and I lived on a sailboat. It was a beautiful old wooden boat with no fancy navigation equipment to tell us how to get from one place to another. We had to read charts, know wind speeds and tides, read a compass and know what kind of a buoy we were looking at. There was no Siri or Google or any other Bot to ask when you were out on the ocean. GPS had yet to be invented so your dead reckoning skills needed to be sharp if you were going to make port in time for dinner and the sunset.

I was never any good at this skill but preferred to manage the galley (kitchen) and trim the sheets (lines). I loved the feel of the tiller in my hand when it was my turn at the helm, but I did not trust myself to know how to chart a good course, so I left that up to my ex.

He, on the other hand, was extremely gifted at nautical dead reckoning. On one trip, we were on our way to the Point Judith breakwater in RI and were socked in with fog. We could hear the buoys but had no visual clues to help us know if we were going to make the channel or hit the sand bar just south of the rocks. It still amazes me that he was able to get us within 3 feet of the marker so we could turn toward our next buoy and into the harbor.

To a certain extent, a season of Interim Ministry is a season that requires dead reckoning skills. You must know where you are to plot a course toward a desired location. You must know how fast things are and can move and what the markers are along the way. This is what I've been doing with you for almost two years now - plotting, correcting, adjusting for speed and endurance. All the while I have kept the goals of my call in-mind. Facilitate healing, explore who you are now, imagine who you are being called to be, and prepare for a new settled pastor who will lead with you into your new season of ministry.

This work has been complex and yet my two-plus decades of practice navigating change in congregations has gifted me with some reasonably good dead reckoning skills. However, the post-Pandemic world has changed the landscape in ways that the maps do not yet reflect. Here are some of the things I'm seeing that go beyond the pre-Pandemic markers:

  1. All things internet - website, social media, YouTube, live streaming, etc. - are now the front door of any church and people may be "with" you without you being aware of them at all.

  2. People can participate from anywhere making location far less important.

  3. People expect technological excellence.

  4. The rise of White Christian Nationalism and its dominance as the face of Christianity.

In addition to these new markers, old currents are now stronger and require congregation's to really know where they are going. Some of the old markers are:

  1. A two-income households time is a precious resource for leisure and chores.

  2. Schools and sports leagues operating 7 day a week programs year-round.

  3. Travel as a priority for retirees and families alike.

  4. The distrust of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.

All of this change means that we are creating a new map and navigating blind, to some degree. Just like the Corp of Discovery as they made their way over the mountains so many years ago.

And yet, the markers we have always had as followers of Jesus remain. These markers ask,

  1. Are we living the call to serve, to heal, to love, to forgive?

  2. Are we listening to God for directions in the face of all that is changing?

  3. Are we allowing the Spirit to move us in new, radical, joyful, missional ways?

  4. Are we able to trust that we were made for such a time as this?

As we close in on a significant marker (the new bylaws) and prepare to turn upwind into a season of learning and discovery, I pray we can hold whatever anxiety we share with compassion and grace, trusting the Source of ALL to guide us safely on our way.

With compass and map in hand,

Pastor Robin

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