by Rev. Racquel Ray

Associate Minister of Congregational Life


Are you the type of person who has kept their living room arranged the same way for decades? Or are you the type of person who rearranges and rotates regularly to keep things fresh?

This week, I’m reminded of Paul’s letter to Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” In some versions, the spirit of cowardice is translated as a spirit of fear. As we live into this post-pandemic, election, and church restructure year, I have heard rumblings of an undercurrent of fear. I even have some of my own!

Fear often prevents us from taking action. Fear of the unknown often hinders our ability to change. We can become consumed with internal ‘what if’ dialogues! What if (insert new thing here) causes us to (insert fear here) and everything is (insert catastrophic result here)?!

Often, turning to scripture or Spiritual self-help is no help either. If you just have faith the size of a mustard seed everything will be ok. If you have the faith of a child everything will be ok. If you believe in God or Jesus or your church or it’s leadership enough, everything will be ok. And sometimes, everything will be ok. And sometimes, it won’t. The problem with over Spiritualizing our situation is that we can often blame ourselves, our loved ones, our church, our church leadership, or God when things don’t turn out as we planned.

So, how do we live into change? And in a church context, how do we live into change in the face of fear and in a Spiritual way? Our Quaker siblings have a wisdom to share in this area; we could pray and then wait for the answer. How can we apply this principle in our current changing context?

We can read the rest of Paul’s letter to Timothy, “I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day…I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands, for God did not give us a Spirit of fear…”

Beloved, this church has seen its share of change. In a few hundred years, this church has weathered many storms. It has been broken and flooded. It has been divided and rebuilt. But, I have no doubt that the Spirit of God that resides in this congregation and in each of you empowers us with a boldness that can only be from God. This Spirit is witnessed in your ministry and in your ‘spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.’

Each visitor that is embraced, each child that is nurtured, each elder that is supported, and each minister that is raised here has witnessed your spirit of power, love, and self-discipline!

As we grow into the new structure – and with it some challenging conversations and difficult decisions – let us remember that we do not need to come to these moments with a spirit of fear. We can work through our changes, pray through our changes, and wait through our changes as our ancestors have done. We too can approach these conversations and decisions with the Spirit of power which equips us to embrace the prophetic and bravely transition into the unknown future. We can move forward with a Spirit of love that opens our egos and our humility to make space for being wrong. We can hold our opinions and sometimes our tongues allowing self-discipline to pull us back from saying hurtful or harmful things.

Change can be hard. And the church is changing. Therefore, sometimes church can be hard. Do we leave? Do we quit? Do we freeze from fear? Or, do we prayerfully, powerfully, and prophetically move forward in love and leave behind our fear? Let us ‘rekindle the gift of God that is within you’ – that same faith that lives in you, in your parents, and in your grandparents – and in the ancestors of this church – and traverse these changes together.