A couple of years ago we took Abby, our daughter, ice skating at the outdoor ice rink at Centerra. We thought we would be there for a couple of hours. Five hours later we had to convince her it was time to go home. Given the enthusiasm of that day, we decided to sign Abby up for Ice Skating lessons this year. Turns out there was also an Adult class happening at the same time, so I decided to sign up too. Why not? I had taken lessons as a kid, and something in me got excited about being on the ice again. I think it was the 3rd class when I was trying to turn on an outside edge and my right foot caught the ice and I went down, landing hard right on my knee. After catching my breath I shook it off and finished the lesson.
Later that night, after sitting through dinner and watching some TV, I stood up to go downstairs and my knee throbbed with pain. The next morning it felt worse. A thought momentarily ran through my head that even though I was having fun with it, perhaps a 46 year old shouldn’t try to learn to ice skate. And then I went to Spiritual Direction and another thought came to me. Learning how to do something new is not going to be pain free. It sounds so obvious and yet how often do I/we avoid learning something new because what I/we really want is to avoid the pain that comes with it. This got me wondering about the church, and about this moment in which we find ourselves.
We are being called to learn new ways of doing and being church. Whether we are a 20 year old church or a 200 year old church or a nearly 60 year old conference, this moment is asking us to try new things. And this, like learning to ice skate, isn’t going to be pain free. In fact, as I work with churches these days a lot of what I am doing is helping communities manage the pain that comes with having to “get in the rink” so to speak and try something that hasn’t been tried before. Be it a new way to worship. Or a new ministry with a community partner. Or a conversation about selling the building. Or unpacking privilege. Or examining patterns. Or creating a Conference Wide Committee on Ministry. Trying new things means being willing to risk falling. Maybe even falling hard. Not if but when that happens, my hope is that we will not say, “maybe this means we are too old to learn something new” and instead catch our breath, help one another get back up, figure out what adjustments can be made, and try again.
We aren’t going to learn how to be and do church differently without also navigating some pain along the way. Thankfully we don’t have to navigate it alone. May God grant us the courage and strength to be those who are not afraid to become what God longs for us be.