Adventurous Thinking: Where we’re going is not where we’ve been, so we’re called to cultivate new ways of being, thinking, and doing. As we engage the challenges of our future, “the answer is not to try harder, but to start a new adventure…to learn and be transformed. What is needed? An adventure that requires adaptive capacity” (Tod Bolsinger).
I think about Saul the Pharisee after his encounter with the resurrected Jesus—the three days of waiting in blindness (Acts 9:1-19), and the three years of reorienting in Arabia (Galatians 1:11-18)—grappling with the radical shift in his understanding of Jesus, of God’s purposes, of the Scriptures, and of his calling. Where Paul was going now was not where he had been; he needed adventurous thinking.
I think about Peter the faithful Jewish apostle of Jesus after his thrice repeated vision—a descending sheet full of unclean animals and the Lord’s voice declaring, “What God has made clean, do not call uncommon.”—standing in front of the door to centurion Cornelius’ house, at the literal threshold of a radical encounter with Gentiles and the Holy Spirit (Acts 10). Where Peter (and the months-old Church!) was going now was not where he (or they!) had been; he (and they!) needed adventurous thinking.
I think about a people once called St. Margaret’s, walking down a hillside—leaving behind much more than just a building—and stepping into an unknown future, transitioning into new ways of being, thinking, and doing as a people now called Immanuel. Where they were going now was not where they had been; they needed adventurous thinking.
Immanuel is stepping into yet another unknown future, on the threshold of new encounters with unexpected people and the Holy Spirit, confronted by shifts in culture and society that challenge our understanding, assumptions, and past ways of being the Church. Where we are going now is not where we have been; we need adventurous thinking.
The partial quotation above from Tod Bolsinger comes from his book Canoeing the Mountains in which he uses Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the uncharted territories of the west to map a way forward for the Church. Here’s the full quote:
To be sure, this is an adapt-or-die moment. This is a moment when most of our backs are against the wall, and we are unsure if the church will survive to the next generation. The answer is not to try harder but to start a new adventure: to look over Lemhi Pass and let the assumptions of the past go. To see not the absence of a water route but the discovery of a new, uncharted land beckoning us forward—yes, in the face of the uncertainties, fears and potential losses—to learn and to be transformed. What is needed? An adventure that requires adaptive capacity.
One thing Bolsinger emphasizes in his book is our need “to learn and to be transformed.” The call is to ask hard questions, to examine and release assumptions, and to attempt multiple new ideas. And in those attempts, the goal is not to succeed, but to learn and adapt through the process, and to be responsive to the transformation accomplished in us by the Holy Spirit as we step forward into God’s future. There will be questions, discomfort, conflict, and even loss (all change involves loss), but such experiences are evidence of new life, and invite us to engage the other practices the Lord is cultivating in us this year—Reflective Listening, Creative Connecting, and Intentional Diversity. And we can step forward into these things with confidence because we are stepping together into God’s future for Immanuel.
As I write this, I’m reminded of one of my favorite prayers from Compline (page 63 in the BCP 2019). Here it is, adapted slightly:
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us as we step into your future, so that we who are challenged, threatened, or wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Your Pastor in Christ,
P.S. Speaking of change, there is a change coming to us at Gray’s Event Center after Easter. With the gradual lessening of COVID restrictions in Virginia, Gray’s will again be able to have other events happening in their space. This is good news for their business, and we rejoice with them. This does mean, however, that we will return to weekly set-up and break-down before and after our services. Set-up teams – we need you! And we need additional volunteers so we don’t wear down just a few people. Please get in touch with Phil Westcott if you’re willing to join the set-up rotation.