Kairos / Chronos

The close of my ministry with Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church is coming quickly. It boils down to a pastoral visit, a parable for the children, a sermon for the grownups, a farewell to and from all, and a walk through the building and through the labyrinth before turning in my keys.

I am a fortunate woman to have served this congregation for nearly nine years. That is a substantial chunk of time since my ordination nineteen years ago.

Chronos refers to time in ordinary terms, as in past, present, and future. It is measurable in nanoseconds and in geological eras. Events happen and recede into the past. We plan for the future and it’s here so quickly I often say, “The dates in your calendar are closer than they appear.”

In Greek mythology, Chronos is the personification of Time. Kairos has a different Greek meaning for time: the opportune moment. Typically something special happens at just that “right” moment in time.

In chronos terms, April 30 is my last day at Live Oak. I can look back over my time there and the history before then, and I can estimate with increasing certitude how the next few days will play out.

In terms of kairos, this is an opportune moment for nearly anything to transpire. Whenever there is a change in leadership the entire system shifts. Transitions begin with an ending, then go through a neutral zone of flux and possibility, and end with a beginning: something new and not entirely predictable. T.S. Eliot said it this way in The Four Quartets:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

I don’t think he meant that in absolute terms. “Where we start from” changes and if we land there again we land with different experiences, wisdom, and insight (or a new chance to learn the same lessons again).

My immediate plans are to travel. My husband Jon and I will take a road trip to see friends in North Carolina. We have both been working so hard that a break will be most welcome. Yesterday was our 15th (!) anniversary. Time on the road will give us a chance truly to catch up while leaving ordinary responsibilities behind. A second honeymoon! We’ll be back in time for me to preach in San Antonio–perhaps an antidote to the temptation to “run away from home.”

June will find me on a journey to Tokyo to visit my son Rob, his wife Lin, and Lin’s extended family. The only other time I visited Rob in Tokyo was in 2003, I believe, the first year he moved there. Who knew he would stay so long, teaching English, working as a messenger, and now computer programming? Who knew he would meet his Taiwanese wife because she wanted someone to climb Mt. Fuji with her? He has been back to the States a few times; I’m excited about my return trip.

Returning June 14 I’ll have just barely enough time to reset my biological clock, do some laundry, and repack to fly to Phoenix on the 17th. This trip will be for the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. We’re calling this one a “Justice General Assembly” to draw attention to our witness on comprehensive immigration reform. Where better than Arizona to raise our voices?

Those are chronos events, to be sure. The kairos comes in the possibility–no, the certainty–that my life will spin into a direction unknown. It won’t be Kansas any more, Toto! My ministry will form and reform as the months and moments occur. I am open to new possibilities.

I have such high hopes for Live Oak as well. Spinning a congregation in a new direction will also be inevitable, but it will likely be a little longer in duration. Have any of you noticed the speed of church? This transition will be rapid in congregational terms but terribly slow for the “early adopters.” I am so excited for their future. Since change is inevitable, let’s all make the best of it!

Be blessed, companions, as I have been blessed.

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