There is of course much talk about getting back to normal once we are through the pandemic – but is that the reality for most of us? And what about those whose lives have suffered profound impact as a result of all that has happened? For all of us, there is no going back; lives, relationships, employment, education, and community have all altered in so many ways. As Omar Khayyam writes:
‘The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.’
Easy or hard?
So now is the time to mourn what is lost with due reflection; celebrate the positives and what we have learned and then face the future and move on. Someone commented to me that change is easy but transition is hard. I had to think a lot about that before I understood it. Thinking through my own experience, I believed this to be true. Last year, the change to home working was relatively easy; one day I was going to the office, the next day my front room was the office. The shift required in my thinking about all the things that had to be done differently was enormous and what made it worse was that I did not do the thinking immediately – I just fell into a different way of working.
Pretty quickly, the learning about technology came; what came too slowly was the need to manage my diary so I had thinking space, time to eat and other necessary functions. The opportunity presented by not having a four-hour daily commute was rapidly grasped for a lie-in and then changed as I realised that the commute had been my exercise and food-shopping opportunity. The realisation of the need to schedule time to talk to colleagues, rather than wander up to their desk, took too long. I won’t continue with the exceedingly long list of things I needed to think about but I hope you get the picture and can relate to it.
What helped enormously in finding a way through the transition I needed to make was knowing about my purpose and values and wanting to take the opportunity of a different balance; although to talk about balance is not so helpful, to think about a see-saw in constant motion between two reasonably acceptable levels might be a better picture. I talked to others and realised that I was not useless or a failure, I was just dealing with a lot as we all were. Other people had more realistic expectations of me, and were being kinder to me, than I was to myself.
Now change is on the horizon with another way of working, ministering and interacting, and the prospect is daunting. We are already doing so much in our restricted bubbles; how can we do more in a larger, noisier, more tactile environment? You might be thinking ‘will I ever be able to cope with a room/church full of people again? How can I be creative when for the last year I have been so reactive?’
It’s good to talk
We have all been through a stressful year, to say the least, and we face yet more interesting times ahead. Remember that you need to think carefully, get a perspective on things – don’t make big decisions when you are being influenced by small matters. Above all, talk to others and find out how they are coping and what they are doing to get by. You will find you are not alone and you may find some helpful ideas too. Whatever the future will hold, whether or not we want to run towards it or away from it, we can all be certain that shift happens. So if change is coming, let’s try to be on our own terms with it.
To help you
I, together with my colleagues Sally Bubbers and Hilary Ison, have developed three thought-provoking ‘Soul Role and Context Questionnaires’, designed to help you think before or during transitions. You can use these alone if you wish, or with a trusted friend, partner, colleague or to discuss with a coach or pastoral superviser.
Download the Soul Role and Context Questionnaires here, to reflect on:
Helen Averill is Manager – Clergy Transitions Service