A letter from Jane Holslag in Lithuania
Dear friends, supporting congregations, and family in Christ,
As the semester begins to draw down, this church year comes to an end, and the season of Advent approaches, I am again reminded of the gift of endings and beginnings. In my Introduction to Bible class, the Hebrew people are ending the long sojourn wandering in the wilderness. As they cross the Jordan, a new chapter will begin for them in this journey with their Lord. Their relationship with God will take on new meaning in their new setting, their behavior and practices will therefore be transformed. Much will remain the same, but much will change. In History and Theology of Mission we’re reading in Transforming Mission, by David Bosch, about the paradigm shifts in mission since the New Testament times. The “paradigm shifts” Bosch names refer to what happens when the ruling metaphor for how mission is understood and carried out is changed. His book points to the new perspectives, new self-understanding, new definitions, new activities which emerge, all reflecting the major worldview shifts through history (i.e. the Enlightenment, the modern era, post-modernity).
A prime example of this from the first century and the very early years of the nascent church can be seen when the Gentiles enter the faith picture and faith discussion, complicating the life of the first Jewish believers, those chosen people of God from the Hebrew nation. Primarily through Paul’s mission activity, the old ways of ‘doing things,’ the former paradigm determined by the old covenant is no longer the ruling ‘paradigm’ for this new people of God (now Jewish and Gentile). Jesus and his first followers actually started this paradigm shift, and it was shocking and unsettling as well as exciting and liberating. My students and I are learning this, I hope! AND we in mission find ourselves today in just such a time of change, transition, and transformation.
Why all this talk about paradigm shifts? First off, I am loving teaching this class and have really been taken by my own preparation reading…Bosch, Lesslie Newbigin, Darrell Guder, and others. However, on a more personal note, the metaphor of a paradigm shift is real for me! Though my service contract is through May 2015, I have recently determined that this shall be my final semester at LCC International University. After 11 years of teaching in Lithuania and a total of 20 plus years of service to the church and mission with PCUSA in Europe, I am taking my 65th birthday seriously! I shall begin the retirement process in January 2014 a bit earlier than originally planned. This is for me, yes…a real paradigm shift! It is at one and the same time an ending and a beginning, but actually a year of transition and adjustment lies ahead.
Two thousand fourteen will be my last year as a salaried PC(USA) mission worker. I will be taking a 3-month ‘break’/leave of absence to begin this transition; last summer’s rest and renewal wasn’t enough, and I hope these first months of the new year will give me the ‘breather’ I very much need. April though June I’ll return to the US and be visiting as many congregations as possible to say THANK YOU! for these years of faithful and consistent encouragement, prayer and financial support. The final six months of 2014 will be a time of cleaning up the archive work left from my dissertation, a time of discernment about my next steps, and God willing, time for a bit of travel and relaxation. I am most grateful this coming year can be one of a slower type of ‘shift’… and the PC(USA)’s severance package will make this possible. ALL TO SAY, your continued support for 2014, both congregational and individual, is needed and appreciated .
I look forward to seeing many of you later in the spring to fill in the rest of the details: my plans are now to begin on the east coast in early April, spending much of May in Colorado, and then base myself in southern California for the last five weeks or so. Though my hopes are to spend as much time with support congregations as possible, I also look forward to visiting individual supporters, as well as many of you who have been faithful in prayer since 1990. This will be a different kind of interpretation assignment, and I cherish the idea of our just spending time together in reflective gratitude and fellowship. In fact, I’d love to share from my dissertation, entitled Berlin Fellowship, East German Perspectives and Mission Encounter, 1961-1989. If you or your congregation is interested in conversation, a meeting with your mission committee or even a larger congregation-wide event, please get back to me as soon as possible!
Beginnings and endings all in one breath!? …and yes, like that in times of wandering, in God’s providence, we too, journey on. As I anticipate a new paradigm for the coming days, I close with both a reminder for all of us---one that makes this transition hopeful and open, and even welcoming. The Psalmist says, “My times are in your hands” (31:5).
May God bless and keep us all, may this season be one of letting go and starting again, one of waiting and watching and anticipating the next steps of our journey.
Grace and Peace,
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 284
Read more about Jane Holslag's ministry
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