Fare forward, travellers! not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or will arrive at any terminus,
While the narrowing rails slide together behind you;
And on the deck of the drumming liner
Watching the furrows widen behind you….
Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbour
Receding, or those who will embark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind…
(Excerpt in The Dry Salvages, from the Four Quartets, by T. S. Eliot)
An interim period in the ongoing life of a congregation provides an opportunity to step back and look at where the congregation has been, where it is now and where it may go in its next “era.” It is an “in-between time”—a time “while time is withdrawn,” as T.S. Eliot says, to look at the past, assess present operations and point toward the future. We have done this together in several venues during the past year, and will continue on this journey in the new church year that is almost upon us.
In dealing with transitions in our own lives and in the lives of our religious communities, we become aware of how what seem like small changes over time can add up to major transformations. We are never the same travelers who first embarked on the journey, nor will we be the same ones who arrive at the next port. As Heraclitus put it, “You cannot step twice into the same river.” It, and we, flow inexorably into the next phase. Nor can we step into quite the same congregation twice. Although there is continuity with the past, a congregation will transform itself from month to month and year to year as its people and its identity shift and readjust to changing times.
We will soon begin our second interim year together—a time to examine these changes and to plan for the future. I look forward to returning and to seeing you all again after some weeks away—some of those weeks spent tackling innumerable projects in my home in Berkeley—I never seem to step into the same HOUSE twice, let alone the same flowing river!
Speaking of flowing rivers: don’t forget to bring some water from your summer activities to add to the communal bowl at our Homecoming Water Communion service on September 13th.
See you all soon. May we fare forward together fruitfully in this next interim year. Joy