|Zip-lining at Loterie Farm in St. Maarten.|
|Working my way to the next platform.|
truck, which clambered up the side of the mountain through virgin rainforest. The most extreme zipline, we were told, was 930 feet long and a dizzying 120 feet above the ground. The view was spectacular, to be sure, but as we climbed higher and higher into the rainforest's canopy, I felt my anxiety rise, too. After some initial instruction on how to use the harness and navigate safely from platform to platform, I clumsily made my first attempt, whizzing diffidently to the next platform. Interestingly, the zipping itself was pretty effortless, once I had gotten the hang of it. What terrified me was the movement between the platforms, which got higher and higher. Most of them were connected by reasonably sturdy bridges made of rope and wooden planks, although I worried that my foot might inadvertently slip between the rungs. At one point, however, I faced--incredulous--nothing more than a thin, steel wire between two platforms--essentially a tight-rope. My only lifeline was a wire above me to which I could attach my harness, and two thin wires on either side to guide me forward. There was no turning back. I had to either walk the tight-rope or be airlifted out.
|At the end of the course, bathed in terror-sweat.|
|Ordained leaders discuss congregations in transition.|
As congregations, we often cannot imagine our way forward along a path that seems unsteady, leading to a destination so far away to be almost imperceptible. This path is marked with anxiety, even terror, because we fear that life as we know it may end. Instead of focusing on our strengths, we lose confidence in our ability to adapt to new situations and anticipate the worst-case scenario, fearful that we might slip off of the tight-rope we're walking and plummet to our death. A key to successful transitions, then, is to be visionary, to accept uncertainty as a creative space, as a place to explore a congregation's values, to let go of old dreams, and come up with new ones. The way forward may push us out of our comfort zone for a time, but if we can learn to live with a little anxiety--perhaps even some terror-sweat--we may be surprised by what we're able to achieve.