Woodland Park Presbyterian Church
Pastor Staci Returns!
I’m so glad to be back with you all after four months away. Nate and I are grateful for the church’s support–the prayers, cards, meals, and sweet gifts for our little JoJo and for us as we recovered from the house fire and welcomed a new baby. This has been a challenging season for us, but we’ve felt so held and cared for by so many.
As I return, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Pastor Joe catching up on what’s happening and figuring out how we want to lead together. Now that Joe has had the benefit of four months of solo pastoring to get to know our church better, there are all kinds of logistics to work out: which of us will support each of the committees, who will preach when, who will reach out to specific individuals in need of pastoral care, how we should answer particular questions that have arisen from congregation members, community members or staff…the list goes on…. It would be easy to spend 100% of every interaction Joe and I have in a purely transactional way that only address the state question at hand, but most of those conversations also include another part–a part that isn’t about logistics, that goes beyond the surface level question we’re addressing, and goes at least a little deeper than a perfunctory “How are you?” With every interaction, we have the opportunity to build relationship–to understand one another better, to reflect on our communication and relational styles, to support one another, and often to discover a deeper need underneath the surface-level question.
All relationships are susceptible to becoming mostly transactional and, the more years and experience one has within a given institution (be it your church, your own work work place, your marriage or other personal relationships…), the more likely we are to focus more on the transactions and less on the relationships. This was already an issue for many longer-time members of many churches (including ours–we are busy and efficient people!), and the pandemic and our even greater reliance than before on electronic communication has resulted (usually unintentionally) in a lot purely transactional moments in church life. Sometimes that’s okay…and, sometimes, one of our sisters or brothers in Christ is really expressing a deeper need than “Can you do this thing I can’t do on Sunday?” and, in our rush to meet the transactional need, we miss it.
This is one of the many reasons I’m so glad that Joe and Dustin initiated the relational meetings while I was away. There’s a reason why the relational meeting is the bedrock tool for pretty much every community organizing model I’ve ever heard of–because it teaches us to move quickly beyond the transactions to hear the deep stories and values that undergird an individual's values, motivations, fears, and dreams. Jesus did that very thing over and over again–people would come to him with logistical questions (“What about this law you’re breaking?” or “How will we feed all these people?”), and he often did answer their questions, but he also understood there was more happening there than was stated in the question. Having an understanding of one another’s foundational stories makes it so much easier to avoid sliding into purely transactional interactions. Having an awareness of what might be going on underneath what might seem like a simple logistical question helps us to ask the next question and hopefully meet the need for real connection, mutual respect, and a sense of genuinely being cared for that we all need and deserve.
Thank you for joining us on this ongoing relational journey.