Unfinished Business: Staying on the Journey
Continuing the story of Transforming Community: The launch of Transforming Community 3 marked significant growth in the number of participants but also in the experience itself. With 40 people on retreat–including six Christian Reformed Church pastors who came together from Michigan on a Lilly grant!– it was time to create a small serving team that could better facilitate the needs of a larger group. Rory Noland, stepped up to become our worship leader, adding music to our fixed hour prayer services for the first time. His original compositions contributed to the further development of Transforming Center’s own unique worship experience, which continues to bind each community together. As we look back, we notice that several from this community went on to serve sacrificially over the years in staff, board, and other key roles.
The Transforming Community exists to create space for God to meet us exactly where we are and minister to us in the ways we most need. This means that no community experience can ever be had twice! Because of this, many of our alumni have chosen to join another community as a way of staying on the journey with God and each other. Clare began her journey in TC1 and has been with us ever since. In celebration of TC3, she shares her story of choosing to stay on the journey by joining another community.
When the invitation to join what is now known as Transforming Community 3 came, I didn’t have to think twice. I signed up immediately knowing that I had unfinished business.
You see, I spent two years with the first Transforming Community. I plopped into that community at 40 years old, 10 years into our church plant. My husband and I were like the typical young church planting pastoral couple– developing leaders, pushing, dreaming, strategizing, scheming, building projects, justice work, feeding the poor, counseling till the wee hours of the morning, overworking and not getting much sleep. I was really proud of how busy and productive I was, and how tired I was when I first came to the TC.
Even the recent diagnosis of MS was something that I joked about. Through research, I discovered lots of people with MS were “Type A” personalities. I convince myself it was kind of a badge of honor in spite of the inconvenience. “Maybe I worked so hard that I wore off my Myelin Sheath,” I would joke. With that false badge of honor, I would say, “I’d rather burn out than fizzle out!” When the neurologist said managing MS included rest I laughed and said, “I usually work through things and it all works out.”
So, when I landed at the TC and found the first spiritual practice Ruth offered was “rest,” I wondered if God was saying something I needed to hear or if the whole world had gone lazy. Rest? Really? I needed to “work in the vineyard because the sun was going down.” I used to tell my congregation “Night is coming when no man can work so now we must work the works of Him who sent us. Jesus will one day say to us enter into your rest so for now let’s keep working for Jesus!”
Staying on the Journey
In my first Transforming Community I didn’t practice everything that was offered but I learned to practice rest. I told my neurologist that rather than trying the daily interferon or steroidal injections I’d like the rhythms of retreat, solitude, silence, praying the hours and rest. Even though she and her colleagues didn’t agree, she supported my decision.
Signing up for TC3 was a commitment to stay on the journey of transformation. Strengthening the soul of my leadership included the sacred rhythms of experiencing community that were not based on my achievements. Add to that the practices of self-knowledge, self examination and confession helped me discover false-self strategies that kept me moving at break neck speed in the first half of life. I even discovered that these were addictions that would not serve me or the people I was called to lead in the second half of life.
I learned “production” was my virtue and “deceit” was my vice. I was discovering that I had deceived myself and others into believing I could live beyond my human limitations. With a classic “S” on my chest, grandiosity was my MO. I was beginning to understand I had an image management strategy to keep anyone from seeing my limits, and it was wounding my life and the life of other people.
Invitations at the Transforming Community to practice “honoring my body” as the temple of the Holy Spirit included listening to my body and letting go of people-pleasing and work that was no longer mine to do. It was a wonderful scary part of the journey. Who would I be if I didn’t do all of it? How important would I be to the ministry if I shared the work I had always done myself?
Life Altering Space
As a workaholic, I was being invited by God to confess that my life had become unmanageable, and I did. I began to “fast” from the work, the applause and the criticism that came with it. Don’t get me wrong, I was still working as a Lead Pastor; I just wasn’t uber-working beyond what I was made to do. My second experience (in TC3) helped solidify my way of “being” in ministry. For this workaholic, Transforming Community became my AA of sorts. It held me in a safe, non-judgmental place, with the right time, people and disciplines to experience the grace-filled transforming power of God.
My husband and our elders were thrilled to invest in my experience. They financed both TC1 and TC3 (and TC4 for my husband). They were grateful that our leadership culture was changing and learning rhythms of work and rest, silence and word, being and doing! My vice was no longer driving our congregation in my compulsive personality style. The redemptive virtue of truth helped us find a new grace-empowered journey. Transformation was happening for us all.
It Saved My Life
There is so much more I could say. It’s been 15 years since TC1, and 12 years since TC3. I continue my rhythms and it has saved my life. At five years my neurologist said “I can’t say you are healed but I think this is more than remission.” At 12 years I was told that the MRI showed my brain was “unremarkable.” I never thought this performance-oriented driven leader would want to hear that my brain was unremarkable!
I am well and this is the work of God!
All the Lord has done through the Transforming Center has impacted this leader and our church in incalculable ways. Thank you to my beloved teacher, Ruth Barton. God has used her (and the Transforming Center experience) as a healing conduit for me and our congregation. To the staff and serving communities of the TC, THANK YOU for creating and supporting this life-altering space! Every pastor we encounter we recommend they take a step in their journey of transformation with the TC “for the glory of God, the abundance of their own souls and for the sake of others.”
As part of our 15-year anniversary celebration we are sharing stories and testimonies from each completed Transforming Community to celebrate all the Lord has done. We hope these stories will inspire you to continue to go deeper in your relationship with God, draw you into celebration of all the Lord has done, and encourage you to partner with us in all He has yet to do!
Read more stories of transformation from TC3
- David Hughes’ reflections on his community experience
- Scott Bolinder’s reflections on his community experience
© 2017 Rev. Clare Loughrige