With the start of a new year, it may be a good time to talk a bit more about change. (See “Changing Diapers” blog Nov. 11)
There seems to be a basic human reaction to change—all change—arge or small, good or bad, desired or undesired. That reaction is grief.
We grieve about what we have lost – whether we liked what we had or not. It may be a short period of grief. Or a long period. It may be mixed with relief or happiness or confusion or some other emotion. But there is always some grief over the passing of what is familiar and known. As well as some fear about the unknown the future will bring.
Harrison Owen describes how this process of grief and change works in groups in his book: The Power of Spirit: How Organizations Transform. “When chaos strikes, transformation begins. The Spirit of a people enters a critical process with possible end results ranging from dissolution to the emergence of a radically new, more complex, adaptive organization. The process itself is that of grief working, enabling us to let go of what was in preparation for what is yet to be.”
- The first stage, he notes, is shock and anger—How dare the universe change on me?
- The next is denial—A way of catching our breaths when we are surprised.
- Then memories—We begin to recount again and again—nd again the history leading up to the change. We humans have a need to acknowledge the past before we can let it go.
- The next is the stage that Owen calls “despair.” We come to the realization that the change is real. It has happened. We have no place else to go but forward.
This is the time of crossing from one way of being to another. And we have to embrace that despair in order to get through it.
- Then we experience of time of stillness, a time of silence.
This is the space for Holy and Creative work to take place in us at a very deep level. It’s a time when we search our own hearts and decide if we are going to stay and work with the new situation, or if we need to take a time-out or leave.
- If we decide to stay, then comes a Questioning stage.
We begin to ask each other “What if” questions - What if we change the way we do some things? Questioning invites people to imagine a new future that includes the best possible outcome for the changes they face.
The task of leaders at this point is to help ask the Questions. Not to provide ready-made answers – because there are none. Owen says that people will find their own answers, if we leave the space open for them.
- Finally, if all has been going well with the process, we come to a time of New Vision.
It is not a vision statement. Not a bunch of words.
Rather, it is a commitment to living life in a new way.
There is a new vision born each time we successfully go through a process of deep change.
This is the work of the Spirit.
When the new vision is there, then people and groups can begin to plan and organize and implement to create a new and positive reality.
May the New Year bring all of us a time of questioning and new vision and Spirit.
Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Congregational Life Consultant and CERG Lead