I serve on a committee at my meeting/church that I hope will soon come to an end. Some committees are “standing” committees, that means their work is ongoing and thus the committee is needed for a long stretch–years, possibly forever. Other committees are ad hoc, or temporary and are formed to take care of a particular task that will come to a close after a certain period of time. I am on the Pastoral Search Committee. Thus, when we discern the right person to serve as pastor and we issue a call (and that call is accepted) this committee will be dissolved.
This is as it should be.
However, it is sometimes not so easy. Occasionally we expect the committees (and let’s add here, organizations, meetings, churches, programs, etc.) we form to last, if not forever, for a very long time. How do we know when something has served its purpose? How do we know when it is time to move on? How do we know when it is time, as Quakers like to say, to “lay it down.”
This is a difficult question. When do we let go of an organization or program? Often our identity is wrapped up in it, or it has been (or continues to be) meaningful to a person, a family, or a group. Thus, letting go is wrapped up in emotional and historical issues as much if not more than in the conviction that its role is still relevant and vibrant.
I am wondering about this because in the past few years two local Friends meetings have been “laid down.” These decisions were not easy and it resulted in some feeling displaced. I am wondering about it also because there are probably a lot of other meetings (and committees and organizations and programs, et al.) that need to follow suit.
However, as difficult as these decisions are, I think it is important that we consider the matter of “laying down.” Why? Because generally, when something is discontinued it is at the end of a long process of decline, decay, and death.
Ok, that seems obvious enough. Yet, I think the time to let go is BEFORE the last breath of life is drawn, before we are writhing on the ground in an extended public demise. In other words, groups that come to a close can and should do so from a position of confidence, life, and some strength. I am not advocating laying down organizations that are thriving. Of course not. However, if we are more attentive to the signs of life and the movement of the Spirit, and if we are less attached to our programs (and committees and meetings and organizations) then perhaps we can reshape, renew, and when it is time, release.
So again, how do we know when something has served its purpose? How do we know when it is time to move on? How do we know when it is time to “lay it down?”