Here is a little background:
In our church, we have a lay ministry, which mostly means everyone pitches in to do all the jobs of running a congregation. There is no paid ministry at the local level. In our family, we've helped with many of those jobs, from Eric spending over 5 years as Bishop of our congregation, to teaching kids in Primary and Sunday School. One doesn't apply for or choose the assignments one gets. A call is extended and an individual has the chance to choose whether or not to accept the invitation to serve, but the vast majority accept the callings because of their faith in the source of the call (God). I think it's a good system because it promotes leadership and teaching opportunities for everyone, and we all get to be taught and cared for by each other.
Another somewhat unique thing about our church that harks back to the way churches used to be organized is that our congregations are pretty strictly geographical. That means that boundaries are drawn on maps to form wards and if you live inside that line, you go to that ward unless there is a special need. It's like a political ward. That's where the name comes from: a municipal subdivision for voting and administrative purposes. Or a hospital ward, where, before the days of semi-private rooms, small groups of people with similar needs were watched over. In a ward of our church, like any church congregation, we watch over each other and manage all the things that a church does to do that.
Because of the culture of our church and the fact that the doctrine, teaching materials and general structure are universal all around the world, people mostly stick to the ward or branch where they live. There are few inducements to go searching for another congregation. They're all generally the same and there's one somewhere nearby, you can count on it. It creates a strong, fairly stable community with continuity and a unique flavor.
Sometimes a ward or branch (a smaller congregation) will serve a particular group of people and overlay other ward boundaries. That's where we get to this change.
In our area, we have a branch of the church that serves young, single adults aged 18-30. It overlays the boundaries of several other wards. Because it's full of young people, some of the leadership of this branch is imported from other wards. By the time you read this, Eric will have been sustained and set apart as a member of the council of three men who will be ministering to the needs of this congregation (The Branch Presidency). That means he will be released from all other assignments in the church and focus solely on this group of young people.
This means our membership records will be transferred from our current ward to the branch. Where our records are kept determines where we will pay our tithing, who will be watching over us ecclesiastically, who we will be watching over, where we will go to church, and lots of other small things. This whole change actually feels very right and it may not seem like THAT big a deal to some of you reading this, but it feels really big to me; thus I'm sharing my feelings. I'll be going to church with an entirely new group of people. And it matters to me. And don't worry, I know how to embrace this change. I really do. I just need to notice and name the things I'm experiencing so I can embrace it.
Overall, it's a fantastic thing and I actually wished for this chance. I love humans of this age-young adults. They are smart and fun and complex and thoughtful. Most of my heart is soaring with ebullient joy. Truly! If you're in the branch and are reading this, know that my heart is ready to love you forever. I can't wait to get to know you. For reals. However, there is that one soft, sensitive part of my heart that will miss the ward I attend now. So. Very. Much. How I love the people I serve with and worship with and pray with and who pray for me and help me feel not alone in the world. Let me just say it again. How I love them.
With this change, there are some of them that I won't see as often. I won't get to harmonize with familiar voices during the hymns. Or hear the beautifully tailored lessons and talks these people share. Or teach this particular Sunday School class. I won't get hugs from these familiar young friends in the hallways, or have the chance to chat about the week with others. These are things that have enriched my life for a long time. Sunday church is a major, energizing, joyful event in my weekly life. And now it will be different. That's all.
None of these relationships or meaningful interactions will have to end, it will just take more effort to sustain them. People change wards all the time when they move, or the boundaries change with the population. It's not a new thing or a particularly difficult thing, but I also know from experience that a ward change means a focus change, and for the most part, that's a good thing. You should be where you are and not be hanging on to where you're not. Sometimes I like to hang on a little, but I'll do my best.
Because of course I will have a whole new group of wonderful people to get to know and with whom all those same things will happen. It's an exciting beginning of new relationships, challenges and joys. Believe me, I know that great things are coming. In a million small ways, it's delightful.
But beginnings come after endings, and I just needed to say that my heart feels a little torn in two right now.
It will be okay, and so will I.
|The new Presidency of the Columbia Stake YSA Branch|