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  • Writer's pictureRev. Staci Imes

The Spiritual Disciplines of Transitions: Patience and Empathy

In the email introducing the worship survey last week, I mentioned that I’ve been hearing some frustration with why we’ve been so slow to re-open our building for worship and larger gatherings. We have been trying to prepare for in-person and/or hybrid worship for many months now...and, every time we started asking the whole range of questions we would need to answer to make a plan...we discovered that most people couldn’t yet imagine what would be comfortable in the future. They only knew what would be comfortable then. So, now that some people are getting accustomed to being out and about an around more people, those people have different feelings about what is comfortable now than they did just a month...or two months...or four months ago. That’s totally understandable. All of a sudden, almost everyone has an opinion about what would feel comfortable...which is both great news and challenging news for your church leadership. It’s great news because we’re finally able to make plans and get working on them; it’s challenging news because many of those opinions and preferences are in conflict with one another and, since people are sharing what is comfortable for them now, it’s hard for some to understand why it might take us until September to make it happen! Some don’t have trouble understanding the delay (it’s mostly because we need time to make the technology changes necessary to continue offering a meaningful worship opportunity for those who don’t feel comfortable or who aren’t able to come in person), but they don’t understand why the plan will require wearing masks the whole time, why chairs will need to be separated in the sanctuary, etc. Others want to know why the proposed precautions aren’t more stringent. As we continue to transition into this mostly- vaccinated phase of the pandemic, we are going to encounter those same challenges again and again. Most of us believe that we respond to these kinds of situations logically, but—as pretty much every psychologist featured on NPR regarding public responses to the pandemic has affirmed—our responses are almost always mostly emotional. We generally make judgements about what is safe for the group based on what feels safe for ourselves. That’s normal (and sometimes necessary), and it is a challenge when groups are trying to reach consensus. So, as we continue to move into this new phase, I ask that you join me in really leaning into what I find to be two of the most helpful spiritual practices for times of transition: patience and empathy. Patience— reminding myself in moments (and days and weeks...) of frustration that this is a time of transition, and this particular transitional phase will not last forever. Empathy—reminding myself that, when three people are in a room, there will be three different comfort levels with every option we might discuss. Trying to understand why others feel the way they do (rather than trying to explain my point of view) is not only a beautiful demonstration of kindness others, it also tends to reduce my own frustration with the situation. Intentionally practicing empathy also tends to give me a lot more patience with uncomfortable or frustrating situations. I don’t manage to lean into these spiritual practices every time and I rarely do them perfectly— that’s why they’re practices. They take practice. I’m exciting to see you in person when we are able to do so. In the meantime, thank you in advance for your patience and empathy as we work our way through yet another transition together. In peace, ~Pastor Staci

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