Change can be difficult. And change within the church is no different. Ministries grow and come to an end, and sometimes it can be hard to adjust.
A few months ago, Arbor Road Church announced a new project. With a goal to reach out to our local community and provide a comfortable place for people to gather throughout the week, the idea of an Arbor Road coffee shop was born. However, building a coffee shop meant downsizing and relocating our church library.This was no small change, especially for a few faithful library volunteers. I spoke to some of the key women who volunteer in the library and asked them about what they learned from this change. Their insight and honesty reveals a lot about processing disappointment and how to do it in a way that allows for change to take place.
I sat down with Evalea who has been working in the library since 1995, and asked her to describe how the library has affected our church. She said “It’s nice to have a library with places like Lighthouse closing. This place is still accessible to people.” She went on to say that although she was sad to see the library get smaller, she’s still thankful for what she has and is thrilled to have the corridor library and be around the books she loves.
Sue Somers shared the way the library has impacted her. She has always loved being around books.She is constantly amazed with the wide range of human experiences authors write about and how the words speak to people. Sixteen years ago, these same authors began to speak to her in amazing ways.
In 1999, Sue was diagnosed with “a couple cancers.” She mentioned it so casually and I asked her to say more about it. She explained that she began chemotherapy for breast cancer in 1999 and almost as soon as that was taken care of, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2000. As scary as those experiences were, the books at Arbor Road’s library helped her process her pain and her fear. Throughout her reading she noticed a consistent theme. In spite of the pain, the authors, “kept Christ in their lives instead of being mad at God.” The books came to life for Sue and she connected to God on a deeper level as they helped her understand her own feelings. For her, “books tell people to go beyond just being good.” They helped her deepen her faith as she went through immense pain and uncertainty.
As Sue reflected on how the library impacted her, she also mentioned how it has impacted the church. She said the books help people connect with each other and allow them to open up. She would take the books and pass them around to others in the church community who couldn’t get out. Sue also said it is a casual way for her to connect with her friends who aren’t Christians. “It was easy to invite people to see our library who otherwise might not want to go to church.”
Debbie Hess volunteers in the library every first and third Sunday of the month, and she expressed similar feelings. “It’s easy to start a conversation with people and then find out why they’re looking for a certain book.”
Even when she’s not working she visits. “I go in there every single week whether I’m working or not.” She said she enjoyed the library because it was a great place to meet people.
For someone who loves the library so much, it was difficult for her to watch it get downsized. Although she was disappointed at first, the change has allowed her to meet people who she wouldn’t have met before the transition.
With the library now placed near one of the main entrances to the church Debbie has been able to meet more people and help them if they’re lost. She described this opportunity with, “I’m right by the door where two hundred or three hundred people come through the door and I can greet the people who come in.” Two weeks ago, a man was looking for the deaf church, but he couldn’t find his way. He communicated to Debbie what he was looking for and she was able to take him there. She told me, “It was small, but I think I was put there to help him find where he needed to go.” She realizes that she’s in a much better location to help people when they need it.
The lessons Evalea, Sue, and Debbie shared with me show that they are not only making the best out of a disappointing situation, but they are actively looking for other ways to serve. Although they were each sad to see something they treasure so much get smaller, they didn’t let that turn into bitterness. In the midst of the move, Debbie asked herself, “If I’m not here to serve, then why am I here?”
May their response to change inspire us to allow God to work in the midst of disappointment. And may this new coffee shop carry on the library’s legacy, providing a place to meet and build relationships.
Written by: Robert Heckert