Not in my meatloaf
“Not in my meatloaf” the woman across from me in the waiting room of the doctor’s office declared to her friend. The TV was on the health and wellness channel and the host was making a healthy meatloaf, but the woman across from me was having nothing of it. Each time the host announced the next ingredient the woman defiantly declared, “Not in my meatloaf.”
Last week Gettysburg Seminary and Philadelphia Seminary announced that in 18 months both schools will cease to exists and a brand new seminary will be formed from the resources of both schools.
Each of our institutions has their own recipe for educating students and for running their day to day operations. One urban campus, one small town campus with different needs, different ideas and different histories.
The intention is to reimagine this new institution from the ground up. During this process it is certain that one idea or another will be proposed that might not fit the way we are used to doing our jobs. Every one of us involved in this transition will probably be thinking at some point, “Not in my meatloaf.”
For most of us change means stress. With the arrival of change, we suddenly see the uncertainty, that in reality has always been there, but that we were able to conveniently ignore. Even if we know it intellectually, we tend to live our lives as if nothing will change. We won’t get old or sick, people we love will not die and those things we hold dear will never change.
The reality is that everything is subject to constant change. I am not the same person that started writing this post a few minutes ago, and you, just by reading this have changed in some small way.
When change comes our way what can we do to manage it and the stress it generates in us?
Well first we have to take a step back and get out of our own heads. The simple truth is that most of the major challenges we face when we experience change take place in our heads. It is the stories we tell, that we get attached to, that we cling to and make into our identity that ultimately cause us to suffer when things change. For the woman in the doctor’s office, the thought of changing her meatloaf was unthinkable. Her comment was not “That should not be in meatloaf” it was “Not in my meatloaf.”
Next we need to step back and ask ourselves a question. What is this? What is really happening right now? Not from our normal perspective, but instead what would a completely impartial observer see if they looked at this situation. How would I see this if I was not directly involved or impacted?
If the answer we get is judgmental or critical of ourselves or others, we might want to ask that question again, “What is this?” Eventually, if we ask the question enough times we get down to the bare facts. The real truth of the moment.
This may sound like just an intellectual exercise, something to ponder after dinner with a philosopher friend, but rest assured if you actually take the time to earnestly do it you will learn an awful lot about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your fears and your desires.
In the case of a Seminary founded 190 years ago how do we acknowledge the long history and dedicated effort that has kept the institution alive and vibrant, while at the same time make the changes necessary to survive and thrive for another 190 years?
We will need to detach from our preconceived ideas of what works and what doesn’t, we will need to let go of our assumptions and beliefs about how to train the next generation of leaders in the church and begin again. Learning from the past but not being bound to it and planning for the future while living in the rawness and uncertainty of what that future will bring us individually and as a group.
Join with us on this journey. Let’s see what ingredients go into our new meatloaf, or maybe, we don’t want meatloaf at all.