Responsively Yours: Transitions
- Audio version, January 2010 (MP3, 10MB)
- Cover of Response, January 2010 (PDF, 563K)
- Content of Response, January 2010 (PDF, 199K)
Harriett Jane Olson is deputy general secretary for the Women's Division.
Have you ever wondered why we think our “resting” state should be stillness, rather than movement, flexibility or change? We have the interesting responsibility of translating a text that was written with the image of a flat, static world, into the language of movement. To do this, we must see movement as the “norm”—something that creates strength and life, rather than something that interrupts our being still.
When the poetry and hymns of the Psalms were being written, it made sense to the poet and to the people to speak of strength in the “roots of the mountains” and the spread of the blessings of God to the “ends of the earth.” The ancients viewed the mountains as being “rooted” in the base of the universe below, and the distant edges, or ends, circumscribed the world. The inbreaking of God was viewed as making the mountains shake or smoke, not earthquakes or volcanoes. Today we know that some mountains are volcanic, some are created by the movements of the plates of the earth and some are remnants of a glacial past. Molten rock, water and other sorts of not very “solid” mass are at the base of the mountains. In fact, the mountains do move — at a pace too slow for us to observe. Still, we know that what keeps the universe together is not mass as much as it is motion — gravity from the rotation of the earth; energy from the cycling of the stars, suns and planets; positively and negatively charged ions in the atom. The whole system is actually moving.
What if we thought of our lives, our communities and our relationships that way? They are always growing and changing, even in small ways, so that they remain in relationship with each other. In fact, if our relationships didn’t grow and change, the movements around us might fracture them.
Those of us who have moved from one community to another know this. For a while, you can continue to worship at the same church or go to the same doctors, hairdressers and restaurants, but pretty soon, you begin forming new relationships. It is too long a drive to run back and forth, or you can’t depend on taking care of haircuts or doctors appointments when you return to visit. Relationships change. Some of us — clergy families, service personnel, staff members of large companies who are transferred from location to location — have learned to do this. Others of us wait until we are pushed to make the changes.
Would it make it easier if we thought of change as “normal?” If we recognized that our circle membership, unit membership or employment were more likely to change than to remain “still,” would we plan for it? What would that planning look like? Families experience change through marriages, births, adoptions, divorces and deaths — even those relationships that we work hard at maintaining are subject to change. When the changes are small we can imagine that everything is holding constant. But once the dating son or daughter announces an engagement, or the new baby is born, or the loved one dies, the change is seismic.
While we’re always “in motion” in our relationships, some of these life moments of seismic change are times when our members and our potential members may need United Methodist Women the most. Someone needs to know there is still a place for her in the circle now that she is an empty-nester. Someone else needs to know retirement might be an entry-point into new areas of involvement in our organization. Still others need to know graduation from their college unit doesn’t mean graduation from United Methodist Women. Can we support our sisters through their transitions? Some of our grant programs focus on these transitions — welfare to work, release from prison, farming adaptation in the midst of climate change, etc. — but our organization must be equally alert to opportunities for “local mission.”
We are always teaching, always learning, always caring, always being cared for. Each member of United Methodist Women knows membership has been different for her at different stages of her life. That’s how living organisms work: they move, and change and adapt. Isn’t it wonderful to be part of an organization that is moving, changing and adapting too? This will keep us in sync with our living faith, firmer than the roots of the mountains, indeed!
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary
Date posted : January 13, 2010