Paul writes – Australian friend Simon Holt took Arthur of Ponsonby’s advice seriously (see this post), although he didn’t know it at the time. Remember what Arthur said? ““Sometimes you just got to let yourself go and see where you end up.” So twelve-months later Simon offers a couple of reflections about the transition:
“…I came to Collins Street Baptist Church one year ago this month. In a community of such history, I am still new. I came from seventeen years of teaching practical theology in seminaries and universities. When I accepted the call to Collins Street, eyebrows were raised, my own included. Why would I leave the security and stimulation, not to mention the opportunity to influence, that teaching provides? And why, in the breathless age of ‘new missional communities’ and ‘emergent churches’, would one join an ecclesial relic in apparent decline?...
I have read the statistics, the predictions of demise for churches like this one: stories of sinking ships and chronic relevance deficit. I’ve listened to whispered warnings of a conservative community, liberal in theology, jealous of its history, hording its resources and resistant to change. Despite all of this, I packed my bags and moved in.
…What I have found could not be further from its reputation. Collins Street is anything but an ecclesial relic! Indeed, it’s a relatively small congregation—I often say it’s a small church with a big building, a big history, a big budget and a big impact—but far from being on its deathbed, this church is very much alive. What I have found is an extraordinary community of people, diverse in every possible way, alive to the Spirit and deeply committed to the future. A year in and I am very glad to be here…”
You’ll find the original post here, and the follow up one here. Its good to see Simon reflecting again on personal narrative, change, the ordinary and the everyday… and a book recommendation (see both posts) – to which I can but add my own endorsement. It’s a fascinating and useful book.
The story Simon tells is a story of courage, possibility and hope. Confirmation that the future is present and is nurtured in what de Caussade called the “sacrament of the present moment”. It’s true in seemingly “dying” churches, just as much as it’s true with regards to businesses and institutions – indeed of any kind of organization.
For more on these themes and the role of leadership (though not exclusively a book only for “leaders”) in change I highly highly recommend Margaret Wheatley’s Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. It isn’t a practical step-by-step book, but what it does really well is frame and informs the kind of deep conversations and practices that need to be engaged. See also Baldwin and Linnea’s The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair.