Change is inevitable

Charting unknown territory.


What’s in the box? If you ask what All Souls Protestant Church (ASPC) is about and what it has to offer, there is not a standard answer. The only correct answer is “change” or “adaption”. That is not a simple answer, unfortunately.

Expectations

All Souls is a pioneering project. It was officially called a project for three years. Last year the status changed, an association («Verein») was founded, new elders were installed and we are now a parish. We are not a standard parish though. While a regular parish is always bound to a certain area, All Souls is not. We are called the All Souls Protestant Church in St. Gallen and eastern Switzerland. We are a regional community. Because of that, it is something new. There is no official status for this construction. We are a parish, yes. And we are a parish, no. We are an in-between-kind-of-fellowship.

Traditional views do not apply to pioneering projects. No one puts new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17). Someone told me that All Souls should be moving more quickly. Upon my question what that means, the immediate reaction was, that ASPC should quickly have a thousand members or so. With other words: All Souls should become just like all other parishes, facing the same problems. Frankly said that is not an attractive thought. It was a question about money, not about a community. These were remarks about numbers, not about people. The expectation referred to the current situation of the Evangelical Reformed Church in the Canton St. Gallen. We should adapt. We should become like the others. The expectation expressed was about conformity, not about reformation, much less about innovation.

This will never happen. It simply can’t. It’s not how it works.

Levels of change

We are a group of people who want to share. We are a thriving community, where people actively engage with each other. We care. All Souls might have started as a project, but today it is a community. The focus has shifted. All Souls no longer is an abstract idea, but a reality we live.

As a community, we embrace change. We try to figure out what works best. If something doesn’t work, we need to adapt. There are practical questions involved, like the set-up for church services or how to move on with our table-talk-sessions. We also share our vision. In Kreuzlingen a first English church service was held and a new English speaking community is in the making. We are glad to be part of that journey, to provide knowledge, experience and ideas. We realize that these engagements have an immediate impact on ourselves as well because time and resources are limited. We have to find ways to deal with this, while new projects appear on the horizon.

Change therefor is also resulting from the limitations we have. People participate passionately, they feel at home and contribute their thoughts and dreams. The question to all activities will be: Who is responsible for something to become a reality? Which tasks should be prioritized? Church “the All Souls way” is not about providing services, but about being the service – to each other. This requires flexibility to change at every level, all the time.

Teamwork

We are a small team. Funding covers just 50% (or two-and-a-half days of work per week) for Scotty Williams, our pastor. The elders have regular jobs and are limited in time as well. These are real-life challenges. How can we balance the needs of our community with our personal and healthy limitations? How can we develop visionary thoughts, encourage new projects and support new communities simultaneously? Indeed, these combined tasks would require several full-time jobs, which are not available.

Teamwork, therefore, is active participation in a process of change. We must ask ourselves many questions to create the community we want. How can we adapt to the limitations? How can we strengthen our fellowship in St. Gallen? In what way can we support new communities?

It is extremely rewarding to be part of a community like All Souls. The community, that’s us. We rethink the way we can be a church. We test it. We engage with new ideas. That will not change. That’s who we are.

Change is inevitable, and that’s a good thing.