This week I attended the annual Clergy Conference for our diocese. This was a working conference looking at the role of anxiety in our lives and in our congregations. The title, “Heat and Light”, is meant to convey the positive and negative effects of anxiety. As a positive, anxiety can be the expression of a longing for God, a longing for something good to happen, or a recognition that something needs to change. On the negative side, anxiety can be contagious, paralyzing, self-destructive, distracting, and can distort our perceptions.
We looked at models for managing change in a congregation. Change always produces anxiety and anxiety leads to conflict. The key learning here is that conflict is necessary in any system. Conflict, well managed, can lead to revelation. In this case, revelation is not so much the revealing of the sacred but the revealing of problems and unmet expectations. When conflict reveals problems, we can work together to make effective change. Conflict then, is an invitation to learn about ourselves and raise our self-awareness, as well as to be in deeper and more skillful relationship with one another.
It was fascinating to look at anxiety and conflict as necessary, inevitable, and ultimately useful in a congregation. The key, then, is to learn to be kind and respectful in our moments of conflict. Many of us are afraid of conflict, so it is challenging to think this way. I personally found the material to be very timely. We are in the middle of some big physical changes to our facilities and our worship space. We can expect some heat and light.
Yours in Christ,