I’m sure that most of you who are reading this will not be surprised when I say “It’s hard to believe that Hannah is a year old!” The amazement at how quickly our children grow and develop seems to be a nearly universal experience for parents. It is almost unthinkable that the fragile little newborn that we took home from the hospital a year ago is now walking all around our house, babbling new sounds everyday, and constantly discovering new things about the world around her.
Of course, there will be even more changes to come, many of them even more dramatic and drastic than the changes of this first year. Some of those changes will be challenging and some might even be painful for Hannah and for Jess and I as her parents. As Hannah grows and changes, Jess and I have to grow and change in certain ways as well, adapting to her new abilities. In fact, if Hannah stopped changing in her appearance and abilities we would think something was terribly wrong. If Jess and I continued to respond to Hannah when she is 15 in exactly the same was we respond to her now, we probably wouldn’t be very good parents. Hannah, Jess, and I all remain the same people and even the same family but within that continuity there must be changes that take place in order for us to be a healthy family.
If God has created us in this way so that change is so fundamental to our existence as human beings, then shouldn’t we expect the same to be true of our existence as a church? Too often, we speak and act as if any change in the Church is a compromise or a step backwards from the way things used to be or the way we’ve always done it. We are fearful that if we change then somehow we are less faithful or we have lost our way or we no longer know who we are.
We must recognize that change is just as much a part of who we are as the Church as it is a part of who we are as growing and changing individuals. Change has always been and will always be a part of the Church. Certainly, we must remain the same Church. We must remain faithful to the same gospel but the only way we can do that is by changing and adapting to our changing context just as a person or a family remains true to their character while adapting to the their changing situations.
Jess and I often find ourselves laughing, smiling, and filled with a unique kind of joy when we consider all the ways that Hannah is growing and changing. I think that God must laugh and smile and be filled with a similar type of joy when he watches his Church take bold new steps and try new ways of living out his kingdom in this world. It is my prayer that our church will be one that puts a smile on God’s face as we embody our ancient faith in new ways.