Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - Updated: 3:10 pm
As a Pittsburgher all 72 years of my life, change is something I seldom have welcomed with open arms. While I helped manage change during a long corporate career and through my own training business, I drag my feet at learning new technology, and usually ask my young grandchildren for help.
I love my lifetime church, St. Basil Parish in Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood, and the announcement of a merger with three other parishes to form Holy Apostles Parish brought instant anxiety. Three-plus years of worshipping, meeting and working alongside so many good people has quelled those concerns.
Likewise, moving forward with the diocesan-wide On Mission for The Church Alive! initiative doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges and roadblocks. Any change can be complex when it involves people with different needs, priorities and feelings.
Change has a natural effect on our emotions and attitude, and our response can influence those around us in a positive or negative way. Initial anger, resentment or unwarranted criticism can create stress and worry. Such a reaction can never produce constructive results or happiness.
However, if we adapt to change (even if we don’t like it), an optimistic outlook and actions can ease our pain and that of others who may be struggling. Such Christ-like behavior makes difficult transitions a bit easier. When we choose to spend less time nursing negative feelings and attitudes, we leave more time for healing and growth.
Change is inevitable. But, as a pastor friend once preached, “We are products of our past, not prisoners of our past. We can change.” And while we cannot control many of life’s changes, we can always control how we choose to respond.
These six reminders, combined with the gifts of faith and hope, may be helpful aids while journeying through change:
1. Trust in the Lord. Jesus will never, ever fail us or allow his church to fail.
2. Prepare and plan for known or inevitable changes. If we know change is coming, we can get ready in body, mind and spirit.
3. Manage stress by eliminating negativity. Spreading rumors, complaining, blaming and disrespecting others doesn’t help. It just increases tensions and inhibits progress.
4. Listen openly, read, study, question, pray, ask for help and choose a direction. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
5. Embrace discipleship. Use your strengths and talents to help yourself and others. “To each individual, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” (1 Corinthians 12:7). St. Paul is telling us that we are all part of the solution.
6. Be at peace physically, emotionally and spiritually. “Therefore do not lose heart … we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16, 18).
The world that Jesus lived in and the changes he and the disciples initiated were as challenging as or more difficult than those we face today. Change for the sake of change is a questionable practice. But when change is necessary, that is another matter.
We have the right to respectfully question change, and our leaders have the obligation to respectfully respond with a rationale for their decisions. Choosing to change means everyone has the Christian duty to model our Lord in deciding to listen, discern and act.