I am going to admit that this has been a dizzying week. It has been a busy week. A full week. A non-stop week. But, honestly that is not what made it dizzying. What made it dizzying was the speed at which I felt like I was being called to be something different, to change my assumptions and expectations, and to be satisfied with less of one thing, more of another, and all of it different.
I am stunned by how many times just in the last two weeks I thought I had adjusted to our new reality only to discover that my adjustment was only a 24 or 48-hour holdover. The depth of this crisis is washing over me in waves. Just when I think I have my balance another wave knocks me to my feet and I have to right myself all over again.
All of this is a preamble to let you know that the assumptions under which I was playing when I accepted this position have been swept away by this ghost enemy we call the coronavirus pandemic. For two and a half years I have largely been playing the scout. I have been going out ahead of you exploring the landscape of an emerging and changing world. I have been flitting back and forth from some place up the trail bringing back nuggets of wisdom and stories from the road. I have been teasing you with images of a future vision knowing that no community willingly walks into the unknown without at least a taste of the future feast.
But this pandemic has changed that. It has changed the rules. It has erased assumptions. It has shattered expectations. Now I can say, “I don’t want to be too far up the road. I want to be with you. I want to be with you in the trenches of this struggle.”
In fact, I really can’t be too far up the road because at this point I am not even sure what road I am supposed to be on. But I do know I am supposed to be with you. I do know that this moment calls us to walk together. I do know that the future will come soon enough and we can resume our dreaming, our visioning, and our future planning.
I have spent these past two weeks punishing myself with the question, “What does it mean to lead in this strange new time? What does leadership look like when our reality is shattered?” I have come to conclusion that, at least for the moment, leading isn’t about being out ahead and inviting you to a new future. Leading is about walking alongside.
Four weeks ago I was a scout. Today, and for the foreseeable future, I am a companion.
We are going to do this together.
There will be time for future dreaming soon enough.
Right now we need to hold each other…and keep our distance. Isn’t that the irony.
There is no easy way through this.
But together our burden will be lighter and, I believe, our future will be brighter.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades