A Time of Transition

Lots of changes are happening in the Southwest Conference. Our longest serving staff member has been working with us for 13 months. I am 6 months into my time with you as Designated Conference Minister. Our newest staff member joined the team last March. This issue of The Loop will tell you about ways the conference office is reorganizing to conduct business more efficiently. You are being invited to use different processes for tasks that are intended to make your life simpler and easier, and to play to the strengths of our conference and the skills and efficiency of our staff. We are focusing on strategies that equip congregations and clergy to do their best possible ministry together and in partnership with other congregations and clergy. We need to give ourselves some time and space to traverse the emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual dynamics that accompany these changes. That time and space and all that is contained therein is called a transition. While changes happen the moment something becomes different, transition is a process that takes awhile. How much time and how much space will our transition take? Well, that depends on us.

For the foreseeable future, all of us will be trying on for size a new configuration with different processes and strategies. We expect some tailoring will be needed so they fit us better. Like that favorite comfortable garment, we will miss doing things the way they were done before. We will most miss the people with whom we interacted. And so this time will include some grieving, reminiscing, making peace, and letting go. For awhile transition feels like we are living in two worlds, the one that is ending and the one that isn't quite here yet. We'll need to ask ourselves what is so much a part of us that it can't be left behind, and what must be left behind so that we can embrace what is ahead. Transitions can feel overwhelming as we are asked to take on new skills, attitudes, andvalues, or to pursue new outcomes. Conference leaders will monitor the pace of the journey making sure we all get there unharmed. We will encourage one another, and offer one another guidance and wisdom. We will look for ways give each other the chance to really shine! All the while we'll be answering the question, "Where do I fit into this new way of being conference?"

Our challenge as the Southwest Conference is cultivating our capacity to understand and live our covenant together in a way that is no longer experienced as stable, predictable, or even comprehensible. That capacity is, in fact, the single most important factor in predicting whether any organization will increase its vitality and thrive, or if it will die. Expect some anxiety, miscommunication, confusion, and resurfacing of unresolved issues. We will get through all of those things by coming together, pulling together and giving one another lots of grace.

As with every transition a small number of people will find themselves unable to embrace the new beginning toward which we are moving. That's OK. We are still in covenant together and we will still love and care for them. An equally small number of people will find themselves ahead of the curve saying things like, "Finally!" They will need to be patient with the vast majority of us who want to find a way to embrace the new beginning ahead, but who need some time to work through the dynamics that change creates and our own place in the new order.

Our transition will be made easier and the new beginning to which God is calling us will be sustainable as we give our time and attention to our identity, our relationships, and the way we communicate with one another. Remember, we are the Southwest Conference UCC. If any conference can find new ways of being conference and grow into them together for a sustainable future, it's us! We are the most innovative and experimental conference in the United Church of Christ. We have a long history of creating change, helping each other live into it, and doing so with grace. And we have very skilled and capable leaders who have guided groups on similar journeys. We can and will do this.

Knowing who we are, we must live faithfully and playfully in covenant together. This is all about our relationships together. Nothing about transition is intended to put our relationships with one another in jeopardy. How we treat one another on this journey is critically important. And so we'll speak truthfully in love, bear one another's burdens, forgive as we have been forgiven, and resolve to do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but esteem one another.

Remembering who we are and living faithfully and playfully in covenant together, we are in conversation together. We'll talk with one another rather than about each other. Communication will be a priority for the conference office. We will do our best to anticipate your questions and provide answers even before you ask. Still, if you want to tell us something, please tell us. If you don't understand, ask us to clarify. If an explanation would help, ask us why. All of us in the conference office invite your feedback, and we are all committed to being responsive to the voice of the conference as a whole. Our goal is over-communication and we will need you to let us know if we are meeting it.

We are living into the next chapter of the Southwest Conference! We are reinventing ourselves. We are seizing opportunities that weren't there before. We are about to be the best Southwest Conference we've ever been.

Rev. Dr. Bill Lyons
Designated Conference Minister

Read the July Special Edition of The Loop.