I have lived in university towns for most of my life, and one of the constants of university towns is change. The student body changes by at least 25% every year as one class graduates and a new one matriculates. Most of the congregations I’ve been a member of have been on or near university campuses, and the transitory nature of that context has been reflected in congregational life as well. The good thing about that is that you have the opportunity to share the lives of all kinds of interesting people. The bad thing, of course, is that you also have to bid farewell to many of them at some point. This dynamic is intensified in the university context, but really, it’s true of all congregations, regardless of context, as it is true also of all communities and families. People come and go in our lives and in our congregations. But while meeting and getting to know people is a gradual process that you barely notice, bidding them farewell is typically fairly sudden, and is felt much more acutely.
As I noted in a recent sermon, several of our more active families have moved out of town in recent months. We’re going to miss them and their contribution to the Grace community. And now this month we also have a transition on the Grace staff as Caitlyn finishes four and half years as our Director of Youth and Congregational Life. She’s returning to Iowa to take up a position at a Lutheran church in the Des Moines suburbs. She will be missed here at Grace, but I am also excited for her and this new opportunity so close to family and friends.
We are working hard to make Caitlyn’s transition as seamless as possible, but there will be a necessary period of adjustment as we rethink and reconfigure staff duties. Part of our upcoming council retreat over the Labor Day weekend will be devoted to this.
All of these normal transitions are happening against the background of a still changing global pandemic. So much of life seems up in the air at the moment. The new Delta variant of the virus has complicated our anticipated return to normal. Vaccination rates continue to lag behind the numbers needed to achieve the “herd immunity” necessary to eradicate the virus. Wildfires and droughts are ravaging our western states. And our social and political polarization and dysfunction continue apace. Amidst all of these unsettling events beyond our control, we persist in turning to God in hope, gathering weekly around God’s sustaining, renewing, and life-giving gifts of word and sacrament, on the strength of which we encourage one another as signs of God’s enduring presence in our lives, come what may. We rejoice in those whom God has given to accompany us in this life, and we open our hearts to welcome still others into the life of faith that we share. May God bless our transitions, and use us to be a blessing to others in these unsettled times.
- Pastor Chris Repp