The colors are beginning to turn, leaves are falling, pumpkins are coming out on roadside wagons, and the mornings have a crisper, cooler scent and feel about them. Fall is in the air. Winter cannot be far behind. The seasons change and the marks of the year pass us by. We can actually feel the year slip past as we walk about town and commute to work or school.
I lived in Texas from 1974 until 1996; twenty-two years of hot and humid summers. Twenty-two years of no winter, with the exception of a “cool spell” of fifty- and sixty-degree days for a few weeks. Twenty-two years of seeing people Christmas shop in t-shirts and tank tops with shorts and sandals. Twenty-two years of wishing I could ski; watching the forecasts up north, and seeing winter only on national news broadcasts. It honestly felt as if time was standing still. The days never got as short and the nights rarely got cool.
I love living here in Wisconsin. The passage of the seasons helps us to be mindful of the passage of time. We see and hear and are acutely aware of how the world around us is an ever-changing place. Weather shifts, animals behave differently, the visual effects are stunningly beautiful, and we are forced to deal in different ways with the world around us. I believe it makes us more aware of our existence and more in tune with the world.
Now, depending on one’s own feelings about winter, Wisconsinites are either looking forward to the change or dreading it; they are either comparing this past summer to others or comfortably acknowledging yet another fall. Any way one looks at it though, there is keen recognition of the changing seasons and the passing of time. As a community of faith, awareness of the evolutions within the life of a church is also extremely important.
A congregation, a community of faith, a parish . . . must be cognizant of the passing of time and the changing seasons of a church’s life. Churches go through stages; birth, expansion, plateauing, decline, and either death or renewal.
Renewal happens when visionary members of a congregation are acutely aware of their own role in the passing life cycle of a community of faith. It is vital to recognize the progression of life and acknowledge that there is constant change. Over greater periods of time, communities of faith experience “waves”: of children, interest in the church peaking, and more subtle waning of participation.
Here at Hope right now, we are experiencing a comfortable amount of exciting energy that is important to capitalize on as we embark into the future; to ride the wave of enthusiasm into the next generation of what this church family can become. I am proud to be part of a group that, while pulling loose ends together following a period of struggle, is building for the future and carefully positioning Hope for a place in the next generation. Now, with the help of many others, Hope Church will continue to be a healthy community of people gathering to quench their thirst for spirituality.
I believe spring follows the winter, and the blooms are already coming out here at Hope.