At Super Saturday, Rev. Drummond Talks About Making Plans When So Much is Unknown

At Super Saturday, Rev. Drummond Talks About Making Plans When So Much is Unknown

Rev. Dr. Sarah B. Drummond gives the Keynote at Super Saturday on March 19.

Watch a recording of her keynote here

Watch the full Super Saturday worship service, with her address here.
"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

In her Super Saturday address on March 19, Andover Newton Theological School Dean the Rev. Dr. Sarah Drummond referenced Jeremiah 29:11 to talk about what it means to be making plans at a time when so much is unknown and in turmoil.

In the Scriptural passage, Drummond explains that Jeremiah was foretelling that the temple would be destroyed, and the people of Israel flung from their homes, but also that the people would eventually return to Jerusalem. 

"Those listening to Jeremiah’s prophesy while in exile might have been unsure about the advice to build houses and plant gardens, given that his very next prophesy tells them the exile will soon end," Drummond said. "Jeremiah was right about a lot, but as to timing, he was vague on a good day."

"The same disorientation might be true for many of you, and it certainly is for me," she said. "I am guessing that many of you are trying to figure out whether to write broadcast technology into your budget and build screens into your sanctuary, as we keep thinking we’re near the end of pandemic times, but we don’t know what the next version of normal will place on us by way of expectations, and we don’t know whether we’re at the or the end of the Covid-19 pandemic story."

"Accepting uncertainty as to where we are on a timeline, or an epic journey, is difficult but also important," she said. "Because whatever era we’re in – whether it’s the bridge or the new normal – all we can do is to be as faithful as we can, accepting we don’t know what the future holds."
"Whether these days are a pivot point, or if a new era is already underway, all we human beings can do is try our best to be faithful where we are, while we’re there. Eras and arcs that God can see aren’t always available to us, which tells me that God expects our faithfulness without reference to them. So plans we make aren’t reliant upon knowing the whole story, but rather getting glimpses of what God’s love and justice can be, and pursuing them in all their blurry imperfection."

Speaking to 300 people attending Super Saturday online, Drummond went on to talk about what it means to be planning, or creating a plan, when working at transformation. 

"When a community or individual seeks to become relevant, or reclaim relevance it once had but lost, they engage in practices of discernment to imagine the metaphysical City of God’s version of themselves: what they believe God wants them to become," she said. "Where they ascertain a disconnect between what they are and what God imagines them to be, they embrace transformation. To get from where they are, to where God calls them, they use a plan so that people can travel together, using a common map and a common language for giving each other directions."

She went on to talk about how important planning has been in her life. She explained that moving Andover Newton Theological School from its Newton, MA, campus to becoming an embedded unit of Yale Divinity School was only one of five possible plans that were developed at the same time, all while keeping the school running  and focused on its mission. Her dissertation was focused on what could be learned from organizations that received planning grants, and her first book was entitled Holy Clarity: the Practice of Planning and Evaluation.

"So for me to rethink what planning means constitutes, for me, an identity shift. I suspect that many listening to this address know a thing or two about circumstantial changes that have resulted in identity shifts; the Great Resignation, anyone?" she said.

"My thinking about planning has evolved gradually over the past twenty years, and then all-of-a-sudden since Covid. I’m sure I’m in good company when I say that I have run out of energy for making, and then canceling, plans. For two years, building programs at Andover Newton at Yale has felt more often than not like building sandcastles on the beach, somehow hoping the tide would never come in. Either I was going to rethink my devotion to planning, or it was going to rethink me right into the land of burnout," she said. 

"We all had to unlearn and relearn a great deal during the pandemic, and for me, one of the great challenges was motivating myself and my team to plan in the absence of a clear and stable set of goals," she said.

Drummond went on to talk about her new book, coming out this summer, called Intentional Leadership In Between Seasons. In it, she talks about the physics behind leadership energies, and she argues that energy comes from holding in-tension five different leadership extremes, which she said serve as "baby steps in a life-giving direction." Those are:
  • Individuality - Community
  • Planning - Nimbleness
  • Structure - Creativity
  • Inclusivity - Clear Identity
  • Affiliative - Authoritative
"No matter how natural a leader you are, paying attention to tension requires more intentionality than ever before," she said. "Our communities are disoriented, changing quickly, and looking to their leaders for guidance in a time when none of us knows where we’re going. The five tensions I explore in Intentional Leadership don’t give us things to write down on a list, and then check them off; but they provide parameters, and a glimmer of hope that we can find a manageable shape for our days."

"Even in an in-between time, so much good can happen. That was true for the Israelites, whom God promised redemption and hope, either in-exile or someplace else. It’s true for us today, too," she said. "I do think that the pandemic has shaken us up in some ways we needed. Do I think we’re ready for a full-on exploration of what’s been learned? No. I don’t think we’re mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually well enough yet – we’ve been through hell. That said, we’re wise to pay attention to what God is doing now in what Alan Roxburgh calls The Great Unraveling."

Roxburgh, she said, was a pioneer in what was called the Missional Church Movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which called on churches to stop being churches with mission boards, and start being missions with a church attached. He gave up that movement, she said, because churches kept falling back into their old ways "creating programs focused on small-minded concerns meant, not to follow God into the neighborhoods as the movement suggested, but to protect the institutional church from oblivion."

"Roxburgh encourages us to consider decentering the church as an institution and focusing on discipleship formation that prepares people seeking to follow Jesus to detect God’s fermenting – gestating something new – and God’s preventing – God making things not work with the hopes that we’ll take the hint and stop throwing good energy after bad," she said. 

"To detect what it means to be relevant, and what kinds of transformations will align us more closely with God’s will for us, we need practices that help us to remain energized when motivation to make linear movements from points A to B aren’t available. We don’t know what era we’re in, or where we are in that era, but simple and linear answers? Not on the menu," she said.
"In these difficult days, characterized by a racial reckoning, emergence from a global pandemic, climate crisis, and conflict on a frightening scale, it wouldn’t be crazy for us to think of ourselves as the modern-day exiles in Babylon. Whether we are, or we’re not, Jeremiah’s advice to use what we’ve got to make the most of where we are still holds. We don’t have lines to trace, but we have energies to drive us, even if we have to generate them ourselves."
"Just like our planet itself, we have to find new sources of energy, and God’s already given us all we need to find and use it. Like the cake and the water the angel gave Elijah, like the manna God caused to fall from heaven, and like the bread and the fish that Jesus caused to multiply, God gives us what we need. If what we need now is hope, God will give it, and in fact already has," she said. "I find hope among the hopeful, and it’s for that reason I close with where I began: thank you for engaging me as part of this year’s Super Saturday – your presence, and your ministries, give me hope."
Watch the full address here:



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Tiffany Vail

Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.

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