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Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Managing Polarities in Church Life

 I made this drawing while I was thinking about my sermon for Reformation Sunday. I was trying to make use of what I remember about "Polarity Management". It is normally challenging to preach on Reformation Sunday- how to give a glimpse of a fertile and volatile period in church history, that gave birth to so many important movements and theological tangents, without bashing the Roman Catholic Church as it now exists? How to highlight the importance of reforms that were achieved, without resting on the laurels of the past? How to remind myself, and the listeners, that we are part of a denomination that is not just Reformed, but reforming?

The drawing attempts to illustrate the tension that may exist between the extremes of  "Don't fix it, even if it seems broken", and "What do we believe/think/do this week?". Polarity management theory helps us to see that often, neither extreme position is the "correct" one. We can identify positives and negatives about preserving tradition, and about making progressive change.

The "infinity" symbol, or bow-tie like figure in the middle represents a pattern of movement. When the positive aspects of reform begin to be weighed down with negative effects, it may be time to follow the green arrows up and over to the positive aspects of valuing tradition. When the positive aspects of following tradition begin to be weighed down by the negative, it is time to move back into reform.

Can we manage this kind of polarity, or does the gathered community make the necessary shifts without being steered or guided? After more than 20 years in pastoral ministry, I am still not sure how this happens.

The value I find in looking at a tension as a polarity is that when we remember that there are positive and negative effects of both extremes, it is more difficult to demonize the people who seem to be my polar opposites.