Transitions and Possibilities (audio & text)

http://uuasheville.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/180812-Transitions-and-Possibilities.mp3

Adaptability & Life Transitions

Good morning. It is good to be with you today. I’m starting to recognize some of your faces and remember some of your names. I look forward to getting to know you better as I serve this congregation in partnership with Rev. Mark, our staff, and our lay leadership. I’m thrilled to have a portfolio that emphasizes the importance of faith development for all ages, throughout all the transitions in our lives and when we gather to worship.

I will approach my work with you with this definition of ministry in mind. The author is unknown.

“Ministry is the act of ministering to.

It is the way we are mindful and nurturing of each other.

Ministry is not something only ordained ministers do.

When we care with someone, when we stand with them through struggle, when we help them learn and grow,
we are engaging in ministry.

When we offer programs that engage the heart, the mind or the spirit we are engaging in ministry.”

I eagerly anticipate engaging in ministry with you and watching your ministry to each other and the larger community unfold.

I know you will miss Rev. Lisa and her ministry with you.  Change is challenging and as I begin my work with you I hope to gain your trust and respect. I do not promise you perfection, none of us can do that. But I do promise commitment to supporting faith development at UUCA and providing leadership for the programs in my portfolio: pastoral care, lifespan faith development, and Wednesday Thing. I’m a Zumba fan (Zumba is a dance workout to Latin and Hip Hop tunes that was started by a fellow Colombian) so I see our relationship like a dance.  Sometimes it will flow nicely. Other times we may step on each other’s toes or miss a step. But we will always have a chance to try again and learn together as we transition into a new ministry.

This is new for me, too. I was accepted into UU fellowship in April, graduated from seminary in May, was welcomed into UU ministry at General Assembly in June, moved to Asheville in July and started my work with you August 1. As all that was happening my partner Steve and I prepared to sell our house in Vero Beach, FL and find a home here. I also had to say goodbye to the congregation I served as the religious educator for 17 years, as well as to my friends, my parents who live down the street from our former house and the beach.  But, it isn’t really goodbye. In Spanish, we say “hasta luego” ….until later. I know I will be back to visit. It will be different because Asheville is now my new home and you are the religious community that I am eager and excited to serve. From what I have experienced so far, I sense much possibility for the ministry we will do together.

During time of transition, we will be challenged to grow and learn together.  Struggling through situations, welcomed or not, requires our willingness to question our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

Can we change the way we think about a situation?

Can we look at evidence, examine facts, and maybe even change our mind about a conviction or belief we have held a long time that is not supported by the evidence? Learning and growth require the willingness to engage new ideas and perspectives. Being open to change is what allows us to adapt to circumstances in our lives and the ever-changing world around us. [1]

My move here has been challenging but I knew what I was in for. And I’m glad to be here! I made a move many years ago when that wasn’t the case.   It was before the internet, so I couldn’t Google everything and really learn about this new place. In 1993, my partner’s job took us to Brazil. Our family moved to Bahia, one of the poorest states in Brazil, with an infant and a toddler. We lived in the town of Cruz das Almas where there was water every third day, limited access to medical care, no air conditioning as well as rampant inflation: food prices increased daily. These are only a few of the many details our young family had to deal with. I was tempted to either feel sorry for myself (which I admit I did for a brief period of time), complain to my partner or even blame him for putting us in this situation …or I could have found a way of making the best of it. I decided to do the latter and by the time the three years were over…I didn’t want to leave.

You may have heard the saying: “You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” Those years in Brazil taught me to adjust my sails.  I learned that we have it within us to transcend many of the hardships and losses we face if we are willing to embrace change rather than fight it; if we are willing to adapt and be transformed.

From the moment of birth, we experience change. We leave the comfort and warmth of the womb to enter a sterile, cold, harshly lit hospital room

We nurse and are weaned.

We start school.

Our parents may divorce.

We move to another neighborhood, state or country.

A parent dies.

A young adult leaves for college.

A spouse is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

And the list goes on.

Each change requires a transition and maybe even the acknowledgement that there has been a loss.  We often think of loss and grief as responses to death or catastrophic events in our lives. But sometimes it’s unfair situations, big disappointments, life milestones, serious heartaches or the reality of aging- and confronting one’s mortality, that leads to significant transitions in our lives. Acknowledging the sense of loss, they produce can be cathartic.

Furthermore, life transitions often involve a change in how we define ourselves. There is a shedding of a previous identity, a new way of seeing ourselves regardless of whether the situation is happy or sad. What identities have you embraced throughout your life? I know I am making a shift from being an intern and a seminarian to being Rev Claudia: it’s both awesome and intimidating….

In our story today, Pete the Cat just went with the flow, and in the end “it was all good.” It isn’t really always “all good.” However, we can choose how we deal with transitions and the feelings of loss, anger and even despair they may engender. Not all of us are as mellow as Pete the Cat. And that’s OK. We’re all different. We each need practices and friends we can turn to when events in our lives and around us feel overwhelming. And when they occur it is good to know we are part of a caring community.

The earlier reading by Beth Casebolt highlighted the transitions we experience throughout our lives and reminds us of the role our faith community can have in helping us move through them. There are many opportunities of fulfilling that role by ministering to each other as a pastoral visitor, a facilitator for our children or youth program, a Coming of Age mentor, a worship leader, retreat organizer and so on.

Remember, we are doing ministry when ‘When we care with someone, when we stand with them through struggle, when we help them learn and grow….

When we offer programs that engage the heart, the mind or the spirit we are engaging in ministry.”

I hope my ministry with you will support you in deepening your spirituality and commitment to the ministry that your talents and gifts call forth. This is a time of transition and also a time of tremendous possibility.

May we find ways to minister to each other and remain engaged in the task

Of transforming not only ourselves but our community and beyond.

May it be so.

[1] How to Cope with Transitions and Change by Dr. Cheryl McDonald, http://healthpsychology.org/how-to-cope-with-transition-and-change/