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June 29, 2013

Transitioning from the old to the new

This is the season when many of my United Methodist colleagues and I make the move to new churches. Likewise, many churches may be finding themselves in a time of transition. Even if this isn’t the time of change for you, these changes happen for everyone at some point — getting a new teacher, having to make new friends, getting a new boss are all familiar experiences.

The first thing to understand is that the new person is not the same as the old one. She will have different gifts, different quirks, a different voice and different priorities than the previous. You may first notice only the things you like about the new guy, or perhaps the thing you most hate. Don’t rush to judgment. The most life-changing teacher you ever encounter may be one you couldn’t stand at first.

Once you have given them a real chance to get started, communicate directly any positives or negatives you experience. Gossip is a cancer within any community and direct words spoken out of real love is the cure. Often what may seem reason for division and panic may be nothing more than a misunderstanding or require some time and prayer to adjust.

Finally, remember that if you love your church, there is nothing that will hurt it more than undermining the pastor. Remember that your primary connection is through your love for God and neighbor. Even if you have a pastor who is not your favorite, try to be part of what makes your church stronger and more loving during the time of transition.

Remember 1 Cor. 3: “We do not belong to Paul or Apollos, but we belong to Jesus the Christ. He is the source of our unity. With that confidence, we can go optimistically into these new relationships knowing that they won’t be perfect, but that we may grow wonderfully through them.”

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The Rev. James Arrison, formerly pastor of First United Methodist Church, Amesbury, is the new pastor at Good Shepherd Haverhill UMC.

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