[A couple of weeks ago I began writing about change. I argued that we are called to change and that we actually like change. You may want to go back and read them both again. Now I’m going to write about another aspect of change: intransigence.]
One of the aspects of our view of change is that it is a force that we are either with or against. We argue for the status quo against some inflexible Borg-like assimilator known only as “change”. We take up arms and we rally against the forces of change. In other words, we fight it. Or we ride with it.
But one important piece of the process is that every time we take up the reasonable prospect of changing the way we do things or changing the types of choices we make, we are showing not some contrition to a mythical enemy, but compassion and intimacy with another person.
I posted earlier that I am insulted when someone makes a reference in defense of the status quo that actually excludes me. The reference, to the Flip Wilson skit about “The Church of What’s Happenin’ Now” that predates me and my entire generation, doesn’t take into consideration, my experience. If you have said this to me, I know you mean the best by it. The defense: that we should respect who you are and where you come from is to use something alien to my experience. This is the problem we face in dealing with change. The change-averse are afraid to risk their own experience to meet the other at their experience.
In the Episcopal Church, we hear the same issues over the use of Rite I. During the 1960s, when plans were underway to revise the 1928 Prayer Book, they had to decide on the approach to revision. They chose to follow two tracks within one book: to compose one set of rites (Rite I) that would mimic the 1928 linguistic style and a second track (Rite II) that would use more current language. After a lengthy trial period and consecutive General Conventions, the 1979 Prayer Book was ratified. For 32 years now, this book has been the rules of the road. And yet, many pine for the good ol’ days from 83 years ago. Many more contend that we must continue using Rite I because “it is what I grew up with”. So, based on this argument, since I grew up with Rite II and find Rite I completely alien to my formation, what should I do?
The troubling answer that many give is that I must learn Rite I, lead worship using it, and deal. I could say the same thing right back about Rite II.
Do you see how divisive we make the process of change? And yet change is a joyous thing. Change is an opportunity to let go of the stuff we carry with us. Change is the opportunity to say “this isn’t the way I know it, but maybe you could show me.”
Change, after all, is a sign of respect. A sign that you have learned from someone else. That you respect them and what they have to say. To change is to deal with the troubles of the here and now in the here and now, rather than relying on past remedies. To change is to admit that we still have so much to learn from the Spirit. And when we admit to the Great Mystery we know as GOD that we might not have it all figured out and that someone else might give us a clue?
Well, that’s at the heart of our faith.