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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

October 2008

I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about patterns, routines, things that we do over and over again, often without thinking about it.  Like the route that we take to the store, which sock or shoe we put on first, how many cups of coffee we have in the morning before getting ready for work.  Did you ever notice how much of our behavior is patterned?   I probably pay more attention to patterns than most people because one of the things about the world of Autism is that many children on the spectrum like or need or thrive on patterned behavior.  For some children it is difficult to break patterns and they creep up in the most unexpected places.  I remember one experience with one of my children and an elevator.  Every time we went into a particular building, the same elevator would arrive to take us to our floor.  After about six weeks, the other elevator arrived, and with wide eyes, Andrew or Josh refused to get in.  It took a while for me to realize that a pattern had been established.

     Patterns can be helpful, like the pattern of establishing the same time and place to pray every day so that we establish a routine and commitment daily.  Patterns can be useful, keeping us from spending a lot of time thinking about simple things and choices we make (check out the book, The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More by Barry Schwartz, for more on this).  But in the world of Autism, patterns can be hazardous, as they can be rituals that prohibit flexibility and adaptability.  Some patterns are also less than helpful to us in our daily lives and to the church.

     As we are in the midst of many changes and transitions at Bower Hill, many of our patterns are being challenged.  The way we are used to doing things has been changing some with Leonard’s departure and it will change again soon with the arrival of the Interim.  In the midst of this I couldn’t help thinking that now is a good time to spend some time thinking and wondering about patterns, because while we are Presbyterians, who like to do things decently and in order, we know that some of our patterns can hamper our openness to God and to one another. 

     So what patterns direct your actions in church?  Two typical patterns are sitting in the same pew or talking to the same people each week.  Well, imagine what would happen if we broke these patterns and moved our seat on Sunday and talking to different people, maybe even people we don’t know before or after church?  I imagine it might strengthen our community and make us more enthusiastic about coming to church to see more people that we care about.  It might also strengthen our prayer life as we pray for the joys and concerns of the community.

      What would happen if we broke our pattern and signed up or showed up at an activity that we had never been to before or engaged in a new mission opportunity?  I imagine breaking the pattern of only doing the same things might also make us feel more connected to the church, to one another and to God.  It is difficult and scary to examine our patterns and to try to change them, even a little, but it can be extremely rewarding and helpful.

     As you can imagine, so many patterns have been broken in my life in the last month or so, and I am just now realizing some of the losses.  It is especially hard not to see Leonard sitting beside me on Sunday morning.  I have been reminded however that with change comes possibilities and when you are in a relationship with God, possibilities hold enormous potential, especially when we trust that God is with us in the midst of it all.  I have been grateful for your support and for your encouragement in the midst of all the changes and I am extremely hopeful for what the future will hold for each of us.  As we continue to step into the unknown future, we will be blessed if we take some time to carefully consider the patterns we are in the midst of and let us wonder what would happen if we let go of a few and opened ourselves to new possibilities. 

Rev. Laurie