By Maureen Wright
The Presbytery met for a stated meeting last Thursday, August 17, at Fayetteville Presbyterian Church. It was good to see so many of you. For those who were unable to be present, you were missed. The Presbytery met Emily Swanson of Holy Cow! Consulting, who has been hired by the Leadership Team to help us discern what God is calling us to be and do. A cradle Presbyterian who is the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor, Ms. Swanson introduced us to the work of Holy Cow! and our process for discernment.
In my first newsletter article as Transitional General Presbyter, I reflected on discernment and this time of transition. In case you missed it, I shared that our journey for the next 15 to 24 months will be the Presbytery of West Virginia moving from where it has been and what we know to the unknown. This will be a journey of leaving behind our old ways of doing and being the church, a time to reflect on the deeper questions of our identity, purpose, and future – in other words, who is God calling us to be and what is God calling us to do now. I encouraged us to reflect on Genesis 12: 1-9.
As I reflect on this passage, I think that there is more to say to us. To review, this story is often referred to as the Call of Abram. God calls Abram to leave what is known – his country, his kindred, his father’s house – and go to a place that God will show Abram. God promises to both bless Abram and make him a blessing. God asks that Abram go from known to unknown, to step out in faith and by so doing to be blessed and bless others.
I am stuck on what the passage does not include, especially saying goodbye. I think about Abram, Sarai, and Lot leaving what they have known and who they have known in order to follow what God calls them to be and do. Saying goodbye is important. Goodbye includes both change and stability.
I think of the times that I have said goodbye to what I knew and moved into the unknown. In the nearly 32 years that I have been married, Todd and I have said goodbye four times. We have said goodbye to Richmond, Virginia; Kinston, North Carolina; Mount Holly, North Carolina; and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Each time we moved marked a preparedness for change. We looked forward to meeting new people, serving God in new ways, joining a new community. In saying goodbye, we embraced the change, the unknown into which God was leading us.
Goodbye also includes a reminder of stability. I am reminded of the times that I have said goodbye to our children, especially that first day of kindergarten and leaving them at college. In saying goodbye, I was reminding them that I stood behind them as we separated. I loved them and trusted their skills to enter an unknown. (Just for the record there were tears on my part, but neither of our children hesitated long on their journeys forward.)
As I reflect on this passage and the Presbytery’s journey, that transition from the known to the unknown, I encourage us to pause and think about to what and to whom we need to say goodbye. God is calling us to do and be what our churches, our West Virginia community, and the Church need now. What goodbye or goodbyes need to happen for us to signal to God our readiness to embrace change? What goodbye or goodbyes need to happen for the Presbytery (we are all in this together) to enter into the unknown with love and trust in our skills for the journey?
I started the article thinking about Genesis 12: 1-9. In closing, I am reminded of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20b to be with us always, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (NRSV) God promises us to be with us on this journey, this transition from known to unknown.
I want to hear your thoughts about the needed goodbyes for the transition from known to unknown, so please send me an email or text message, give me a call, post a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.