By Tony Walton
Change. This word is often equated with a sense of uncertainty, anxiousness, even fear. As a population we love our routines, we often long for the expected and the planned, even as the world changes around us for good and bad. I require a good amount of sleep and a cup of coffee every day. I like to eat dinner by 6. I want to be able to count on a set schedule so I know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
But things don’t always work out that way. A surprise meeting that I wasn’t expecting derails my plan to get some exercise during lunch. A chipped tooth while eating an otherwise delightful dinner has a real knack for casting a gloom over the entire evening. A new process for submitting work at the office, a car wreck, even something as simple as running out of your favorite beverage can just ruin your day/week/month. And so we try to keep a distance from change, to do everything we can to make certain that our lives remain as un-interrupted as possible… all according to our plan.
But that’s not the way God’s world works.
When Rebecca and I had been married for about 1 year, I lost my job at a dotcom company when that bubble popped. We were in a very small town with few options, and I was at the beginning of my career in Graphic Design, and in the exploding heyday of the Internet, working from home hadn’t yet become mainstream. We had just bought our first house and were in a real bind financially. Change had come unbidden to our lives, and we were in a tailspin trying to decide how to address it.
After months of prayer and no luck on the job front, we went on a ski trip with our local church group. (My sister-in-law paid the remaining balance on the trip deposit we’d made before my job dissolved.) When we returned, there was a message on our answering machine (answering machines . . . goodness) from a former classmate asking if I was looking for work. The company he was working for in Fort Worth, Texas, was looking for a Graphic Designer, and he would love to put in a good word for me.
So there it was, change was going to take us from the town we grew up in. It was taking us from our family, friends, and church. Granted, Fort Worth was only 2 and a half hours away, but for two 21-year-olds who hadn’t strayed far from home for most of their lives, it was an exciting, if frightening, step. Fast-forward 23 years, our lives have changed so much that the children we once were are barely recognizable. The goals and desires we once had have morphed into new ones that we have embraced and now cherish. And, of course, the change that made us so nervous and anxious 23 years ago led us to Prince of Peace and our current church family.
I’ve been a member of the Lutheran tradition for only around 4 years now, but it’s already become obvious to me that change is not something that many Lutherans do easily. Steeped in tradition, the ELCA is a beautifully structured organization, and administration goes a long way to ensure that what was anticipated in January remains the same in December. There is great comfort in this for a great many people.
And yet, this particular congregation doesn’t shy away from change. The move to become a Reconciling in Christ congregation was a major change that displayed both courage and conviction. The way the church banded together and didn’t miss a beat through the various changes in the pulpit over the years evidences a solidarity when confronted with the unexpected that many would envy. The way we transitioned from in-person to online worship in the face of a global pandemic exemplified our dedication to both our faith and to one another.
Despite the uncertainty that it can bring, we are no strangers to change. In fact, I feel that Prince of Peace more than many of the other churches I have called home is not only unafraid of that oft-dreaded word, but in many ways embraces it whole-heartedly. And this willingness to dive deep into the uncertain and the different is something that truly sets us apart. My prayer and hope for this congregation of adventurous souls is that we continue to seek out ways we may further pursue God’s vision for our church and welcome the changes that his path holds for us.
This blog is run by the council members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Logan, UT. For more information, check out our church's website at princeopeace.org.