In an article I wrote years ago for the Christian Education Journal, I discussed changes in life, the transitions we all encounter as we travel toward eternal life with God in Christ, our Lord. The circumstances of our lives, the specific challenges and opportunities we experience grant us new stories to add to our collections. Transitional periods mark the movements from one major story to another, one chapter of life to the next. According to James Fowler, the guru of the theory of stages of faith, transitions require three phases: endings, the “neutral zone,” and new beginnings. I wonder, do churches, local faith communities also have new stories or really, new chapters to add to their life together, and therefore, the accompanying transitions?
As Fowler discusses, endings consist of disengagement, the sacrifice of an important relationship of shared meanings with a community and perhaps in the case of a church, meanings and agreements with a pastor as well. Endings also entail disidentification, a breaking of old connections that granted personal identity. Endings include disenchantment, the experience of the loss of the held constructions of reality, one’s core narrative. Finally, endings involve disorientation, the cumulative effect of the other elements of endings that moves us toward the neutral zone. Again, I ask, do you think that communities of faith pass through endings?
The neutral zone of transitions has been variously described as “experiences of the antistructure,” the “No, you are not going crazy, but you may be out of your mind” phenomena, and “experiencing the dismantling or disintegration of a way of seeing and being in the world, and living through the ragged period of struggling to compose a new and more adequate meaning” (Fowler, 1996, p. 73), a better-fitting narrative construal. A good question might be, will you, Christ the Servant also face moments that threaten a kind of dismantling or disintegration of a way of being in this world as you move into a new season of life together with a new pastor?
Finally, the transitioning person sees signposts that point the way to new beginnings, the new cognitive and emotional structures for making meaning. Another name for these structures is a new life story. I wonder if the invitation of God to an individual to trust Him in the context of change reaches also to a group of sojourners on their season of walking alongside one another.
I have lots of questions. You have been and will continue to move through a season of transition. Sometimes it will feel somewhat disorienting. Yet, I urge you to let God hold you. Allow yourself to look at Him looking at you. The One who moved heaven and earth to make you His own will help you move into a fruitful time of life together in this new chapter of the story of Christ the Servant.
For Christ Jesus and His own