A time of transition ... with changes aplenty

10 May 2020 by Rev Dr John Squires in: Formation and Discipleship Resources

From Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister : Wellbeing

A time of transition ... with changes aplenty

Change is happening around us. We are noticing changes taking place in society. The COVID-19 virus has forced a range of changes on us. Decades ago, Bob Dylan penned a folk song, “The times, they are a-changin’”, which has come to be seen as an anthem celebrating the changes that are always taking place in our society. 

But in the present time, as we live under significant restrictions on gathering in person, as we keep our distance and stay at home for all manner of things, we sense that our times, are, indeed, a-changin’. So let’s ponder those changes.

Some of these are not good changes. Some may well be beneficial changes. We have had to let go of some valued ways of operating. We have also had to learn new skills and adopt new practices. This is what happens during a time of transition: many things can change. How we deal with these changes is important. What we choose to accept, and what we chose to reject, is up to us.

William Bridges has written an insightful book about such processes, entitled Managing Transitions (2009). Bridges talks about transitions in terms of three stages (as the graphic indicates): first, there is the letting go; then there is the neutral zone of being in-between; and finally, the connection into a new place, a new way of being. 

In that neutral, in-between zone, there is a need for us to develop a capacity to live within the discomfort of ambiguity which arises during the experience of loss, as we move away from the familiar. That is the space we are in now, in the midst of restrictions on gathering, as we work to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We are experiencing, in various ways, the discomfort of ambiguity, as things shift under our feet.

In that liminal space, that unfamiliar territory, we have the time and space to reconsider, to review, to reshape, to remake ourselves. What changes will we accept? What changes will we reshape? What changes will we reject?

(I have blogged at some length on these changes at

https://johntsquires.com/2020/05/05/the-times-they-are-are-a-changin/)

Dr Kimberley Norris, an authority on confinement and reintegration at University of Tasmania, has undertaken a detailed study of the mental health of Australians who have overwintered in Antarctica. She found that those who have been through a period of isolation value the experience for what it has taught: They have a better idea of their personal values, and they're more committed to acting on them. (See https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/coronavirus-covid19-isolation-third-quarter-phenomenon-has-begun/12190270)

The study indicates that the positives from this liminal period can be valued and retained, even as we shed the negatives and less desireable aspects from our time of social,distancing and self isolation.

Dr Norris believes that post-COVID, “we will see differences in the way people engage with each other, in the way people work, in the priorities given to the environment, and the way people think about travel." And another interesting comment she has: “A lot of people expect spirituality to increase.”

That study clearly indicates that we stand in a critical period of time, during which we have the opportunity to explore our priorities—personal, as disciples, and communal, as a church—and to make commitments to refreshed and innovative ways of operating in the future. It’s an opportunity, not a threat. We ought to rejoice in, and focus on our strengths, not bemoan our situation and become fixated on the weaknesses it has exposed.

So what changes do we want to keep? What things can we change to ensure that the good things that have been happening continue? What new things do we plan to introduce as a result of the changes we have experienced in this period of time? What strategies are we developing to be well placed for the post-COVID situation? 

What are your thoughts?

See some of my other blog reflections on this at 
https://johntsquires.com/2020/05/04/not-this-year-so-what-about-next-year/
https://johntsquires.com/2020/04/22/its-been-just-over-a-month-but-there-have-been-lots-of-learnings/

Regards
Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister—Wellbeing 
Canberra Region Presbytery
Uniting Church in Australia
0408 024 642
johns@nswact.uca.org.au
https://canberra.uca.org.au/
blogs on ‘An Informed Faith’
at https://johntsquires.com/