Navigating Transition with Rev. Aaron Stockwell

Rev. Aaron Stockwell is an expert in transition. He’s seen it in countless times in his career — as a developmental minister, his role is to come to congregations on an interim basis to help them through their transition, and give them the guidance to achieve new goals.

“Developmental ministry is something the Unitarian Universalist Association has to help congregations who have gone through the traditional interim process, and need a minster for more than the traditional one to two-year period,” Stockwell explained. “During this period developmental ministers help congregations work towards achieving goals not usually covered by an interim minister.”

Currently, Stockwell, an alumnus of Andover Newton, is the developmental minster at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brazos Valley in College Station, TX. The church has occupied a multi-building complex in the city for decades, and the land was bought by the Texas Department of Transportation as part of a redesign of town roads. Although the highway project was first proposed 20 years ago, Stockwell said it was still a bittersweet moment when the day finally came to say goodbye to the church campus.

“We held a service of remembrance and went through all the buildings, shared our memories, released them from our use and rededicated ourselves to the congregation,” he said.

The importance of community is key with any transition, Stockwell continued, and it’s important to remember that while the physical space may change, the mission and dedication to their faith is still there. In the case of UU Church of the Brazos Valley, he said at first the congregation fought this change, but given enough time they realized that with the money they received from the state, they can rebuild a bigger and better space to worship.

The lessons of UU Church of the Brazos Valley can translate into broader themes too — with any move or transition, it’s important to take that time to reflect on the past, and look to how you want the future to look. It’s also good advice for the alumni, students and staff of Andover Newton as we transition closer to an affiliation with Yale Divinity School.

“I think religious institutions are changing, and that yes, it is sad that Andover Newton is moving,” Stockwell said. “I love the campus; it was a laboratory for worship. But as society changes and the place of religion and communities of faith change, we have to take the lessons we see at Andover Newton, the joyful moments, the sad moments, the fumbles and successes, and see how we can use them as a case study for transitions in our own life journeys. Watching from afar, it’s an instructive text on how our faith communities will be changing in the coming years. It can teach us and mark more bittersweet transitions.”

And Stockwell reminds us too that as we deal with these transitions in life, it’s important to remember that “all feelings are valid, and that is key.”

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