...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Had Enough Transformation?

It's fine that we describe ourselves as a transforming congregation, conference, denomination, church, world, etc. It's just that overuse has made that term innocuous and I'm not sure if I know what it means.

"Transformative?" The correct adjective is transformational. But that still doesn't help me. There's a verb somewhere in transforming, the infinitive "to transform."

I know St. Paul uses it in Romans 12: 1-2, but "The Transformers" is also a kid flick. So in using a word with both biblical roots AND one that drips with popular culture, it would be logical to assume that we all benefit, right?

But when I hear the word, I don't think about new creation anymore. Instead I think about denominational statistics, organizational control, and manipulating language, all to create a reality that may or may not correlate with the facts on the ground where we live.

Like the idea of "building the kingdom of God," of a past generation, the market-eers of "transformation" make us sound like something fairly cool: people of action and verve. Really, where is our capacity for transformation? Our resistance to it is in our DNA.

In commenting on the Creeds, Rowan Williams speaks of God's almightiness as God's ability to bring something fresh and new out of any and all situations. So if there's any transformation, God- Father, Son, Holy Spirit is the actor and agent. We are the subjects, the clay, the transformed, willing as well as resistant.

As for the word transformation, in a few years, we will move on to something else, like "extreme middle" or "rethink," or whatever seems to mesh with the current fad or fetish. In the meantime, think and act concretely:
  1. What would receiving God's gift of new creation, recreation mean to you here, now?
  2. How is Holy Spirit, the Guide, with you in that experience?
  3. What are the practices that you, a clergy leader, will engage?
  4. If we are not aware of those changes in our own spirit, how can we, in good faith, offer it?
Like a mustard seed's growth or the action of leaven, God's rule begins almost by stealth and through the smallest of shifts.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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