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What is a transformation?

It may seem like an over-used word these days.  In many sectors of society there’s a buzz about the need for “transformation.”  Its an intriguing term.  Since the call for transformation by the Diocesan Synod in June of 2009, its been an oft used term around our diocese as well.

What does it mean to be transformed?” Several have asked the question.  Thankfully, transformation is not an unfriendly concept to Holy Scripture.  St. Paul spoke often about it.  Jesus was “transfigured” on the mountain in the sight of Peter, James and John as described in the Gospel of Luke (9:28 ff).  Jesus also set an expectation for transformation as he met various individuals of Gospel fame: Pharisees, tax collectors, rich and poor, those described as “sinners” and those who were to be “saints” and, yes, Nicodemus.

The Administration Team of the Diocesan Council, charged with putting a face on the work of following up on the momentum of Synod 2009 chose Nicodemus to help brand a very broad initiative and to give it a focus – “the Nicodemus Project.”  Some have argued its inappropriate.  At the end of the day, it hardly matters if the character of Nicodemus perfectly encapsulates the essence of what needs to happen in the Diocese of Fredericton just now.  Some have asked, “Who is Nicodemus?”  That suggests to me that statistics about just how little some Anglican Christians know about the Bible aren’t entirely inaccurate.  It’s a good news question because at the least, the Nicodemus Project is getting some of our brothers and sisters to care enough to ask about something or someone in Scripture they don’t know about.

Was Nicodemus in need of transformation?  Like all of us, of course he was.  Was he transformed?  Who really knows?  What evidence would you cite that you or someone you know had experienced “transformation?” A change in behaviour?  A different haircut?  A more prosperous lifestyle?  The end results are quite difficult to qualify or quantify.  Transformation is a journey, a very Anglican way.  Nicodemus, like all of us, was on a journey. Change is required every step of the way and I pray its never really finished for me as I doubt it was finished for Nicodemus, the Pharisee of the third chapter of John’s Gospel.

Its my hope that when we speak of transformation for our diocesan church and its individual parishes and congregations, we are referring to a positive change in our church culture. It has to do with becoming a more healthy Church. As much as we love the way we are, there is much that will need to be different about our church if we are to experience success in the proclamation of the Gospel and the making of disciples over the next one hundred years similar to the last. Let’s not forget that the call to that proclamation is the same today as it was in 1910. Every generation brings its challenges. What’s different is the context of each succeeding year.

Our Synod said, “transformation is required.”  Although not an exhaustive list to be sure, some priorities have been determined regarding what this needed change might look like. Transformation is what is being prayed for.  Transformation:
• that might bring us to a place where instead of putting all of our effort and energy into maintaining what we have, look for ways in which we can be mission-minded and outward looking –  of service to others. 
• where our leaders are trained and energized for a future different from the doomsday pictures the bean counters would have us all draw.
• where we get back in touch with what is unique and special about the Anglican way of being Church, and use that identity to offer the world the gift of Jesus in a way that is fresh, real and heard. 
• that will require the grace to look honestly at how we do what we do and make the changes necessary to be relevant and maybe even do it better in a world speaking a different language – we need to speak in such a way as to be heard.

We can argue semantics and connotations.  We can criticize the titles and fiddle with the material offered for use. We can cause the Body to stumble and place obstacles in its path. Ultimately, the goal that should belong to us all is that we become what God has and is calling us to be.  That will require giving up some of what we hold dear: possessions, routines, control.  That’s going to be a challenge for me.  How will you participate and what will transformation mean for you and the community to which you belong?

The Ven. Geoffrey Hall is currently Executive Assistant to the Bishop of Fredericton, Secretary of the Synod and Diocesan Archdeacon.

28 February 2010