The View from Bolton Street

“Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! Turn and Face the Strange”

- David Bowie


This fall will bring a lot of changes to Memorial.  The Rev. Natalie Conway has joined us as our new Deacon, and we are finalizing conversations with a new Director of Children’s Ministry and Community Engagement. Due to the quick work of our Music Advisory Committee we will also shortly be hiring a new Music Minister AND I am very excited to be bringing on board a Seminarian from Virginia Seminary to serve out her field ed placement here at Memorial.   And while that change brings a lot of excitement, it will also in the words of David Bowie, bring quite a bit of ‘Strange’.  We will, of course, spend a lot of time getting to know all of these knew faces and welcoming them as only Memorial can do, But I want to take a moment now to acknowledge both the challenge of change and the need to embrace change as not just a natural part of our evolution but also as a gift from God. 


It is true that no matter how open, affirming and loving church communities are - they usually do not like change. ‘We’ve always done it this way’ is a real thing!  For example, when the 1979 Book of Common Prayer was released it contained a new version of the Lord’s Prayer (which is actually a much older version re-translated but that’s another story) and yet almost 40 years later I can count on one hand the number of churches that I know of that regularly use it!  So yes, Change is not something we like. And often there is a temptation to go back to whatever we had before - not necessarily because it was better but because it was more comfortable.  But I want to take a moment to encourage us as a congregation to ‘Embrace the Strange’ this fall and trust that God is doing something good with this community.  


After all, there is certainly a renewed sense of vitality here at Memorial.  We have improved our relationship with the surrounding community and our reach — regularly being involved not just with Bolton Hill efforts, but with broader west Baltimore efforts through our partnerships with The No Boundaries Coalition and now with St Katherine’s of Alexandria. And our neighborhood partnerships are strong too!  Our Green Team has done amazing work educating the community about managing rain water and has created a one of a kind learning classroom at Mt. Royal School.  MICA now sees Memorial as a partner in ministry and as a safe space for students.  Samaritan Communitycontinues to grow in its ability respond to the changing needs of those on the margins in our community and as a resource to the whole community. Our average sunday attendance continues to increase and our choir, acolyte guild, and welcome ministries continue to grow. 


When we look back at Jesus Ministry one thing we notice is constant change.  Change in locations, circumstances, participants, popularity and effectiveness. Mountains. Lakes. Hillsides. Deserts. Valleys. Just constant change.  But Jesus’ message over and over again to his disciples, and by extension us, through all the change?  ‘Be Not Afraid”. 


Be not afraid, for I will be with you always.  Jesus walks constantly with us through the growth and change we experience as individuals and as a congregation.  It’s okay to worry! It’s okay to not be sure.  But remember that Jesus does walk with us through these changes. And as we ‘turn and face the strange’ We will not just see new faces and new challenges, we will also see the face of Jesus looking back at us - inviting us into new adventures and new opportunities to serve God and to build up God’s Kingdom.