May is a month of endings with high school, college and seminary graduation announcements arriving online and in the mail all the time. Just the other day someone I met while serving in St. Louis posted about finishing her last paper and graduating with a new MDiv. I couldn’t resist the temptation to post a note to her Facebook announcement that this ending was also just the beginning of a new life as an ordained priest of the church. (She was ordained deacon while in seminary.)
Actually, endings and beginnings are happening all the time. We end one day and begin another. We end one activity and begin another. We end a task and begin another. What we often forget to do as we transition from one ending to another beginning is the task of evaluation. How did that last day, activity, or task go? What did we learn? What do we need to take with us into that which is new and what do we need to leave behind?
In the church those who are leaders are tasked with this responsibility. And when we fail to evaluate we fail to learn. When we fail to evaluate we often end up simply bringing everything we have been doing into the future and at some point we discover we are carrying too much with us to be effective in the new beginning we are living in.
In the diocesan office this month all of the staff (including the bishop) are being asked to complete an evaluation of their work in the past year and to create goals for the year to come. These evaluations are, I believe, critical to the work we are about. They help us to focus our energy on the work to which God is calling us to now and they help us to let go of work we no longer need to do.
I do hope and pray that in all of the churches in Western Oregon there is a pattern of regular evaluation. Yearly, monthly, daily, what ever is appropriate to the situation so that the work to which God is calling us can be our focus and guide.
These days in my visitations to congregations we often talk of the life cycle of a congregation from birth to formation to healthy ministry and often the focus of the discussion is on the critical importance of the question of God’s ongoing call to ministry for the congregation. Even the most healthy congregation needs to continually evaluate its ministry by asking the question, “What is God’s call to this congregation at this time?” The same can be said for all of us as we encounter God in our lives each and every day.
“To what is God calling me to at this time?”
“Where do I see God in my life and what does that seeing mean for ministry?”
May God bless you this day as you encounter the risen Christ and discern what God is about in the endings and beginnings of your life.