Growing Through Change
by Rev. Ray Nelson, Board President
I love the focus of this year’s conference, “Growing Through Change-Here We Grow Again”. We all know that change is an ever present reality of life. Change is neither bad nor good, it simply is; but how we react or respond to the change will determine how well we adapt and adopt the changes that are occurring. There is a level of anxiety in the presence of change and a certain level of anxiety is good and creative. It helps us move out of our comfort zones and patterns of behaviors to attempt or incorporate new ways of being or acting in the world.
The problem becomes when we don’t face our anxiety in the face of change and the level of anxiety becomes acute and toxic. This level of anxiety limits communication and collaboration through defensiveness and self-preservation. We dig in, take sides, and often forget principles in the process. We all know this and I am confident that, in most cases, we take effective proactive steps to guide ourselves and our congregation through the turbulent waters of change and anxiety.
The Great Lakes Regional Board has been embracing the idea of change over the last year. We went through a time when we did not respond to the anxiety of change in a very creative or effective manner. But recognizing this, we took steps to relieve the pressure of the anxiety, heal the wounds we inflicted on ourselves, and take more creative proactive steps to move into a new era. This began with last year’s conference. In fact, it began before the conference in the intentional planning of what we saw as needed and necessary. We needed reminding of our shared love and commitments. We needed healing. Finally we needed to release the old and embrace the new, letting go of the judgments of the past and standing firmly in the creative potential of the now.
To start, Shariff Abdullah presented our Keynote helping us see the possibilities of moving from shadow to light. I for one had felt I was living and serving in a darkness far greater than a shadow and needed to be reminded and lifted up into the light. To assist us and bring joy into the space, Faith Rivera provided the music. Finally, Cynthia Vermillion-Foster facilitated a healing circle to allow words and feelings to be expressed and pain acknowledged. I felt blessed and inspired to witness and take part in the healing that occurred.
With a new found energy and commitment, the Board embraced the possibility of change over the course of the year. We reorganized the Board and its officers that best reflected the skills and passions of the members and began to ask new questions about operations and directions. David Ault at the Unity Convention said that we often ask the wrong question and don’t get the answer we are looking for. Embracing the idea of asking questions, we asked how can we best serve all our members? What do to do to ensure all our members, ministers, LUT’s, spiritual leaders, and ministries needs are met and heard? How do we need to organize ourselves and the duties to ensure the ease of operation and continuity from year to year is maintained? Who do we need to be in order to serve in the most effective and Christ-Centered way?
The questions had us make some new strategic decisions concerning how the work of the Great Lakes Region is accomplished. We dissolved the position of Regional Representative, redefined the role and responsibility, and hired a new Regional Representative, Rev Greg Coles, who we felt best represented the Regional vision of the position. We purchased new technology and upgraded much of the software. We expanded the role of Cindi Cousineau to include most of the electronic communications functions and the keeper of the documents. We moved the shared files from a dropbox account to another cloud based storage system. We expanded the monthly newsletter to include a Board blog and space for ministry announcements and are attempting to be more transparent in all our communications. We recommitted the Region to unconditionally support our youth programming, committing the resources necessary to develop successful youth and family ministries no matter the size of the community. Finally, to assist students and spiritual communities, we are developing a scholarship/grant program to assist with educational expenses or unexpected cost of doing ministry: peacemaking, transitional services, or healthy congregation training are three that come to mind.
We are excited for this year’s Conference and look forward to being with everyone. Don’t forget to update your membership in the Region. The Minister, LUT’s, Spiritual Leaders, as well as the Ministry must reconfirm membership every year. We would like you to take the brief survey on your opinion concerning affiliation membership with UWM. Both are to be found on the front page of the GLR website.