There is an ad on Public Television for Viking Cruises. The CEO, Torstein Hagen, founder of Viking, talks about his childhood and the values his family instilled in him. As pictures flow of his Norwegian family, he mentions the qualities instilled in him as a child, kindness, honesty, hard work, to which he adds a fourth, curiosity. With his deep Norwegian brogue, he tells us to be curious about the world around us, its history and culture and travel with an open mind and heart. It is a great ad for selling luxury cruises. Whether you are taking a trip on a river cruise, or a family vacation or a mission trip, curiosity is an essential quality. Hagen is right that on all the journeys of life we should go with an open mind and heart.
Along life’s path, it’s curiosity that makes the trip an adventure. Curiosity inspires us to take the detours that only come along once in a while. Curiosity leads us to engage in conversations that help us get to know a stranger. Whether you are miles away or home studying your family’s genealogy, it is curiosity that keeps life fresh and fascinating. Those who are curious about life will age, but they never seem to grow old. Curiosity keeps them young.
These days there is a lot to be curious about. Curiosity is one of the core values of this church. This summer it may feel like there are more questions in the air than usual. What will the Vandersall Collective discover? What will the fall be like? What new
journeys will God be calling us to explore in the months ahead? I hope we can look to this future with curiosity. When curiosity is our guiding principle, it changes us and how we face the future.
My wife Peggy O’Connor and I have had an adventure this year, led largely by our own curiosity. In the spring of 2021, we led some clergy workshops on preaching and discovered many of our colleagues wanted to talk about their adventures leading churches during the pandemic. They told us about the challenges they faced, how they figured out online worship, how they kept their people together. They also talked about how this experience of the last two years has changed them as pastor. So, we decided to explore this topic with more clergy and set up a process for interviewing 50 clergy from six Protestant denominations. We built a website and talked to people from Rhode Island to Alaska, Florida to California. We heard so many stories of courage, determination and creativity as church leaders navigated this crisis. With each interview we felt like explorers, ourselves. We did not know what these pastors would say. So, we listened intently and carefully. We were often surprised at the grit of these church leaders and heartened by their devotion to their congregations. It felt like a real privilege to hear their stories.
There is still so much we don’t know about this COVID 19 pandemic, and it is stressful when we don’t have enough answers. But each day we have a choice about how to approach what lies ahead. If we can practice the discipline of curiosity and stay open to the surprises planted in each new adventure, somehow, it’s a different experience. During the six months of our interviews, we were humbled in those conversations by how the Church of Christ has been challenged and changed by this pandemic. Even the brightest of our colleagues had more questions than answers. We learned that as the Church of Christ evolves through this hinge moment in history, we need one another, and we need to listen to each other with open minds and deep wells of curiosity.
Core values are only as strong as our commitment to them. But I believe that curiosity will be a key component in shaping our vision. So, stay curious about the world, about one another, about strangers, and about the Church as we look to the future.
Pastor Susan Cartmell
Interim Senior Minister