November - December 2018

Written by Don Walter
From his column A Minute with Don

minute-with-don-10-18_article.jpgIf you want to start a spirited conversation among friends, just bring up the topic of the latest change in your life. Before long, the discussion will become animated and (if you can refrain from participating) entertaining to watch. Change, regardless of the arena of life or how minor it may seem, engages our emotions and energizes conversations. Truly, there is no such a thing as “small change.”

I recently experienced this at home. Like most people, I tend to collect things I find interesting. And, like most folks, I try to keep them in some state of organization. What to the outside observer may look like disarray is in fact a fairly sophisticated system of structure and categorization. I know when something has been moved, and I know where it properly belongs. There is a system.

My wife is pretty tolerant of my systems and has a few of her own. However, over the decades of life together, we’ve learned that our systems don’t blend, so we need boundaries. Still, occasionally we have what is best described as “Goldilocks events.” One of us realizes the other has dared to sit in the wrong chair or sip the wrong soup. A personal collection is tampered with or changed, and there is a conversation. Fortunately we’ve always been able to find a solution that is, as Goldilocks would wish, “just right” (as soon as I locate my stuff that was moved).

As a beloved former pastor once noted, “not all change is progress.” Being different doesn’t make something better. I watched the hometown Kansas City Royals this year with that realization. They were a different team than the one in 2015, and it was not an improvement.

For those of us challenged by the not-so-good kinds of change, it might be helpful to remember that St. Paul promised that one day, “we shall all be changed.” And it will be the good kind.

Like it or not, Goldilocks’s search for something just right—a return to equilibrium—is our polestar.

Each year during the Advent season I make a point of listening to Handel’s Messiah as I drive. Over time, the source of my music has changed. I’ve gone from cassettes, to CDs, to a thumb drive, but the music continues to thrill. One selection I tend to replay is “The Trumpet Shall Sound.” The trumpet solo (especially Phil Driscoll’s rendition) is powerful, and the lyric from I Corinthians 15 is a great reminder of the true purpose of the Incarnation. It is ironic that a holiday which prompts so much nostalgia is really a celebration of radical change.

In the meantime, we humans grapple with accommodation, assimilation, and adaption caused by a rapidly-changing world. Organization consultant William Bridges has written much about the topic in his books, most notably Transitions and Managing Transitions. He notes that changes/transitions involve three elements. There is, of course, an ending and a new beginning. But between these is a period of uncertainty, a neutral zone sometimes characterized by a sense of chaos. And given the multitude of changes occurring at any one time in the life of a person, family, church, or business, that likely means we constantly experience a little chaos. Like it or not, Goldilocks’ search for something just right—a return to equilibrium—is our polestar.

In the Pensions and Benefits USA office, we’ve dealt with a number of changes across the years. Systems change, and we must adapt to keep up. We truly don’t look for ways to change, just for the sake of change. Like my dad used to say, “This is going to hurt me as much as it hurts you.”

During 2019, we’ll be changing the way we collect and transmit payments for the Nazarene 403(b) Retirement Savings Plan. Our record-keeper, Fidelity Investments, is not going to continue to accept paper checks. While that isn’t exactly a cutting edge move, it will require some good folks in local congregations to change the way they do things. Most of these persons are volunteer church treasurers who already do a lot of work at an often underappreciated job. However, once the change is made, we hope it will make their job easier. The last time we made a modification in payment remittance was a couple of decades ago. We try not to make change of this kind a habit.

Like all transitions, we know there is going to be a little bit of chaos. In fact, we’ve already experienced some. We started this change process several months ago, and we’ve had some early adopters with several churches. I wish I could report there were no hiccups. There were. But I can say I am grateful for the patience of those who embarked with us on the journey into the new system. And I can report that, as far as we can tell, the wrinkles have been addressed.

As we venture into new days ahead, I hope you’ll find, in all the changes of your life, grace to navigate transition. For those best motivated by things sublime, try meditating on I Corinthians 15:51-52. For those inspired by things less sublime, maybe a re-reading of Goldilocks and her quest for equilibrium would be in order.

Don Walter is director of Pensions and Benefits USA for the Church of the Nazarene.