Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Bruno Dyck and Fredrick Stark at the University of Manitoba (Administrative Science Quarterly) found in their research that when a church undergoes change it can remain united if during the change it remembers and celebrates times when it endured change and remained united in the past. This “4th Trigger” in their process model demonstrated that celebrating times of unity from the past is critical for effective congregational change to take place. Here is an idea from the United Methodist News Service about one tool that can bring that about.
Comfort in changing times
By Heather Hahn, 12/1/15, United Methodist News Service.
(The) United Methodist Commission on Archives and History… housed at United Methodist-related Drew University, offers materials — like that letter — that connect church members with their Wesleyan heritage.
“We’re the family album of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Alfred T. Day III, the top executive of Archives and History since 2014…
Is your local congregation undergoing a time of change or struggle? In times of difficulty or uncertainty, church records can be a comfort.
Day suggests that churches not wait for major anniversaries to display the photographs and other artifacts that tell the story of their ministry. Instead, he recommends that congregations assemble he calls a “Wall of Wonder” when times are tough.
Archives and History can augment such exhibits with a corresponding timeline for the denomination and its predecessors.
“In seeing that timeline of a congregation’s life, you see as the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ says, ‘Through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come,’” he said.
Simply put, such mementos help people of faith see God at work over the long haul.
It’s a perspective John Wesley would appreciate. His devout wish to end legalized slavery in North America took almost a century to come to fruition.
The British Empire did not outlaw the slave trade until 1807, 16 years after Wesley’s death. The fight over slavery actually split Wesley’s movement in the United States in 1844. The United States finally officially abolished slavery with the ratification of the Constitution’s 13th Amendment on Dec. 6, 1865.
Even that did not settle the dispute among Wesley’s followers, but the Methodist Church ultimately reunited in 1939.
“I think what history helps us to do is to take a longer view,” Day said. “Look at what we’ve come through in the past. Why should we think that God’s grace isn’t going to lead us into the future?”