By now, many of you will have heard that I have accepted a new role in the Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ. I will be the Assistant Director of the Center For Transformational Leadership. While I am excited for this new adventure and eager for the work to begin, I've been thinking lately about all that has come before and the journey to get here. While I'll remain here in our Conference, I'm moving away from the direct work of Faith Formation I've nurtured in these last 12 years of service. I've been reflecting on the many ministry partners I've journeyed with and about the compass that guides my life of discipleship. Let me share a little bit with you about my compass.
The northern most point on my compass, my north star so to speak, is my life of faith. Whether I'm praying with the prayer beads so lovingly crafted by a colleague to carry me through a recent diagnosis, or reading a poem by Mary Oliver or sitting in silence in Centering Prayer, my relationship with the Divine, our good and gracious Creator is the way 'home'. Habits of the heart, Christian practices both individually lived and those lived in community have been a light to my path, opening the way to God. At times they are a way back or at others, a key to remaining centered. I'm anticipate this next call with great enthusiasm. I'm grateful for the moments of faith we've shared; in beautiful camp and retreat settings, in worship settings, in the devotions shared in the Chapel of the Heart these last 16 months. May your journey to true north continue to enrich you.
My family is another point on the compass rose- the eastern point. The rising sun, the dawn of a new day has always been a way to renew my continued hope in us. The constancy of marking our days, of time and seasons is oddly consoling. In the constellation of my faith journey, following that brightest star from the disparate places of our lives and our life together gives me every reason to embrace each new day. We differ about things as much as we agree. Shared values have offered us a unique way forward. This easterly journey has kept me humble and taught me kindness, infinite patience (well, almost) and persistence peppered with humor. In many ways, in our journey together, you all have taught me these lessons as well.
When I think of our journey together, of the many programs, projects, conversations and deep relationships we have shared, I am grateful. Be assured, I have taken an opportunity each new day to thank God for all of you and our journey together. That practice will continue. I am moved by your generosity and compassion, by your trust in me, in our Conference and by your own faith. May it always shine brightly!
I believe another way to look at the compass is to see the western most point, where the sun sets. My evening habit before I retire for the day, for many years now, has been the examen. First offered to his contemporaries by Ignatius of Loyola, the examen is a practice of naming the consolations and desolations of the day. One thing I've added to my own practice is to reflect on an additional question, 'What did I learn today?'. Much of what I have learned is from our journey together. Your passion for this work, your constancy, your willingness to put up with the challenges that continue to come your way! So impressive! I'm impressed too with your ongoing journey of development. Engaging good scholarship, continued training, ongoing personal development have always been a touchstone for my life and vocation as it is for yours. I am amazed by you too! Certifications, degrees, authorizations! My what wonderful accomplishments! It's been my great pleasure to share some of that with you!
And now, as I look at the compass- it points in a southerly direction. When I think of going south from my beloved Southern New England here in the northeast, I think of warmer, sunnier climates. I think of adventures discovering places yet undiscovered. The south point on my compass rose reminds me of new adventures, of a willingness to keep looking beyond what's familiar. I hope and pray you will all do that too! It is a way of looking ahead that excites me for what is yet to come, what will develop not only in our Conference but in the Center for Transformative Leadership. We have good ministry to share and as we venture out, I'm sure our paths will cross again.
I'm counting on it, in fact. Just as you can count on my superlative colleagues to support your faith formation work. You can count on Team Leader Debby Kirk, on her outstanding team of Debbie Gline Allen and Kristin Putney and Emily McKenna to support your congregation's journey of faith formation and your own ministry and vocation. Together, they have all that is needed and more. What they don't have, they'll point you to, just as I have these last 12 years.
God's continued love and guidance to you! God's deep peace to you! Until we next see each other around the bend, or at the next Super Saturday, blessings! May your own compass continue to be your guide!
Karen Ziel is the Assistant Director of the Center for Transformational Leadership (CTL) at the Southern New England Conference. She can help congregations and their leaders with tools and resources for assessment and discernment. As a member of ...