As much as we sometimes say otherwise, most of us struggle with change.
And we know that in just a few weeks, we all have to figure out how to deal with some big changes. My family is already packing boxes and donating other things as we prepare to move into a new house and prepare to attend a new church, find a new mechanic, a new grocery store, a new favorite gas station, and on and on it goes. Thankfully, at least this time we don’t need to worry quite so much about changing school districts.
Here at Trinity, your changes will be somewhat less, but I know that there are a few of you who really struggle with far smaller changes. More than one person has confided in me that they are uncertain about having a female pastor. I understand that Trinity Church has never had a female pastor and that many of you haven’t either. But I was in your shoes once and as folks have shared their concerns with me, that is the story that I’ve been telling them. Since I’ve heard about those kinds of concerns more than once, I thought that I should share that story with all of you.
Back in the mid to late 1990’s Patti and I were still attending the church in South Akron where we met and where we were married. This was the church where my father had been the pastor in the early 1980’s and that’s how I had begun my membership there. After several more male pastors had succeeded by father, the bishop and the cabinet announced that our next pastor would be female. There were many concerns expressed throughout the church. It was nearly a shockwave of concern. Some of the leading families in the church were known to be very conservative and at least one of the patriarchs of those families was rumored to be openly racist. People thought at a woman simply would not be welcome as a leader of the church and many feared that her appointment would divide the church and that whole families would quit together.
But they were willing to give the new pastor a chance.
And, as far as I know, not one person left the church. Because you see, although Pastor Linda was a woman (obviously), she was found to be more conservative in many things, than several of the male pastors that had been at our church. She didn’t come to our church with an axe to grind or anything and more than that, she did something else.
She loved us.
Linda just loved on the entire congregation and many (okay, all) of the old curmudgeons that we worried wouldn’t like her, fell in love with Linda too. In the end, Pastor Linda stayed at that church longer than any other pastor in the history of the church.
There were changes that we had to adapt to though. Some because we had a female pastor, others because every pastor has their own unique personality, and still others because Pastor Linda’s husband, Pastor Mike, was appointed to a church across town. Where we had grown accustomed to the pastor’s family attending our church, Linda’s didn’t. Pastor Mike rarely ever came to our church. I think I saw him two or three times in five or six years other than when we visited them in their home. When Mike and Linda’s kids were in town, they most often attended Mike’s church, if at all. It wasn’t what I expected. It was different.
But different isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just different.
For many of the same reasons, you will find that things here at Trinity will be different. Tina is going to be good at different things than I am, she might not be good at some of the things that I was, she’s going to like, and dislike, different things, she might run meetings differently, and I’m sure that there are a lot of other ways in which the two of us are different. Only one of those things is our gender. And after our experience with Pastor Linda, as well as seminary classmates, and other colleagues, I no longer even consider that to be an issue at all.
Different isn’t bad. It’s just different.
In the last six years, our family has fallen in love with Trinity Church and many of the people in it. You can be sure that I will be praying for all of you in the days ahead.
I hope that you will do what our church in Akron did.
Just give Tina a chance to be your pastor.
My bet is that you will fall in love with her too.
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