I often tell folks that the most important and useful training I received for ministry came from my days as an opera stage manager and production coordinator. Seminary certainly taught me a great deal about theology, exegesis, and history, but doing triple rep in an opera company taught me about the power of patterns.
Patterns are everywhere and yet they can often be elusive to discern. On the other hand, it is also pretty easy to establish a new pattern and it can be transformative! For stage managers, the establishment of patterns literally makes the performance possible. By putting the props in the same place every time, the scenery in the same place every time and by mapping and choreographing the movements of all personnel to happen the same way, every time, you can ensure that when something goes wrong, the patterns set in the rehearsal period will put the show back on track quickly.
Good stage managers and technical directors document every detail and stick to the pattern as much as possible. Blow a cue? Just simply return to the pattern with the next cue and the show goes on. Without a solid pattern, the backstage of an opera house would be a dangerous place because unexpected movements of scenery can be deadly. Patterns promote safety and allow for great complexity.
As a spiritual practice, creating regular patterns for self-care, organization, and prayer can absolutely change everything. Most folks know that if you leave your keys in the same place, you are less likely to lose them. But do you know that you can also change your patterns of thought too? Try this simple practice of “looking for the good” in everyone. It takes a lot of practice to make this a pattern of thinking, but anyone can choose to do this. The beauty of this particular pattern is that it makes you happier and more connected to others.
I have just started a new ministry position with Mira Vista United Church of Christ in El Cerrito and I am happily creating new patterns for myself and looking towards what patterns we want to keep as a community and what patterns we might want to shift.
Some pattern-making for my new job is as simple as having a particular bag to take with me on my commute that has all the regular things I might need while at work already packed and ready. No need to fumble around thinking what to take for the day and no getting to the meeting without the right glasses either!
I am also observing the patterns of my new community and that is more complex. So far I’m discovering that Mira Vista has a lot of wonderful patterns already in place and it is very important to reinforce those patterns and not disrupt them even to do new things I think would be beneficial. Overtime, I will look for what new patterns of ministry will help this community thrive and grow and work with the congregation to develop, rehearse, and practice those new patterns.
Are you aware of your own patterns of practice and thought? Do you have patterns you want to change? What patterns already serve you well?
May we all learn to practice more fully the patterns of love and justice in our world.