This morning I turned on the kitchen lights when I got up. It’s the first time since summer began. We still expect warm days and abundant harvests throughout August, but this is my first warning that the seasons are changing and I need to be ready. It reminds me of when I worked in Jamaica. A common road sign read You Have Been Warned. It didn’t say whether there was a sharp curve or a pothole ahead, you just knew that it was time to be alert and keep your eyes open.
Change is the most constant aspect of our world yet in our churches we often seem to hunker down and ignore it. Seasons change, lives change, the world changes and our faith changes. In our lazy enjoyment of summer beauty and relaxation, it is easy to bury our heads in the sand and forget. Yet deep down we know change is coming and we all need to think about how to get ourselves and our congregations ready. Here are some ideas I have been reflecting on over the last few days.
Be Alert To the Signs
What are the signs in your church that suggest change is on its way and you need to prepare? Maybe people are returning from vacation eager to get back into small groups and discipleship training. Or they might be preparing for school to start. Perhaps you are thinking about sermons for the fall, even Christmas pageants and Advent ideas are on the horizon.
To be honest I don’t always prepare well. I am a hot weather person and hate to think that summer may be on its way out. It’s easy to ignore the changes and procrastinate on my preparations for the changing seasons. I don’t want to be a killjoy either. I want to enjoy the rest of the summer to its full. But I do need to be alert to the signs that change is coming. Being alert means I can both embrace and accept change without fear or regret.Being alert to inevitable change means I can both embrace and accept it without fear or regret. - Christine Sine Click To Tweet
What seeds should we plant now in preparation for the season ahead? August in Seattle is often hot, prime time for vacations. Yet now is when we need plan and plant for fall and winter harvests. However what I plant is different from my spring garden. No tomatoes and squash that need heat to mature. It’s greens and root crops that I know enjoy the cooler weather and mature quickly before the frost and overwintering crops that can get a good start now then sit dormant through the coldest months before maturing early in spring next year.
How responsibly do I plant for spiritual growth and harvest that’s appropriate to the season? What are the best practices that enrich fall and winter growth?
Again it’s all about realistic planning! It is good to remember that just as garden growth is slower as the weather cools, so is the pace of our bodies and spirits.
How do we plan for winter slow down?
Maybe the lead up to Christmas is not meant to be the hectic and exhausting season we create.
What can we do now to change that?
Should you plan a retreat or create spiritual tools that remind your congregation to slow down, reflect and meditate. I have just purchased some canvas prints of a few of my prayer cards with this in mind. They will feature prominently in my sacred space over the next few months as a reminder of what the pace of my spiritual life is meant to be like.
Remember the Past With Thanksgiving
What are you grateful for in the season that has passed?
One American feast I have embraced with enthusiasm is Thanksgiving. The week of American Thanksgiving is my gratitude week. Each morning I love to look back over the year and remind myself of all I have to be grateful for.
I read Psalm 107 with its repeated refrain: Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Such good words for us to ponder as we enter a season of change.
Then I make a list, if I am on top of my game I write thank you notes and embellish my journal with decorative thanksgiving patterns. It boosts my spirits and helps me relax into the changes that are coming.
How could you make thanksgiving a focus for your church this year?
Get Ready To Embrace the New
What are the joys of fall and winter for you?
What does your congregation most enjoy about this season?
Identifying the benefits of the upcoming season and nurturing them is one great way to prepare our hearts and minds for the future. Concentrating on the good that could lie ahead rather than bemoaning what is passing is helps keep us in tiptop spiritual condition. Once again ask your congregation, make a list.
What are your hopes and expectations, your goals for spirit soul and body?
What disciplines will encourage you to embrace the new?
It is also good to think about what will not change.
What are the stability points that provide a secure and immovable foundation for what lies ahead?
Are there people that support and encourage you? Are there practices that give you a sense of security?
Are there objects you love to have around you during a season of change?
Identifying these anchors us firmly.
Use Your Fruit Wisely
Autumn is prime season for harvesting garden produce, I wonder if it is also prime time to harvest summer spiritual fruit.
What has grown in you and your congregation over the last few months?
Have BBQs, picnics and camping trips created new bonds that need to be harvested through caring and sharing opportunities?
Are we enjoying the fruits of a relaxed summer and peaceful spirit but need help harvesting it for consumption in the coming months?
Perhaps an emphasis on simplicity would help your congregation in this.
One of my life scriptures is Psalm 31:14-15 But I pour my trust into You, Eternal One. I’m glad to say, “You are my God!” I give the moments of my life over to You, Eternal One. Particularly in times of change it is a great reminder that I do not control the future, God does.
Change is coming whether we like it or not. Autumn and winter are around the corner. Reflect on the changes you are facing in your life and congregation in the next few months.
How can you better help yourself and your members prepare better and continue to be fruitful?
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