In less than a week my ward will go through a boundry change. That in and of itself is nothing odd in the Mormon experience. Boundry changes are common place in areas where the church is growing (or shrinking). What is odd is that neither is the case for my ward. Yes, we have had a handfull of baptisms. But between births, deaths, move-ins, move-outs, conversions and a few drifting into inactivity, our size has remained pretty constant.
Our ward is made up of the greater part of two counties. The county I live in had its own branch about 10 years ago, but economic changes meant that people were moving out and soon we had too few people for a branch. At one point there were less than half a dozen members in the town and no priesthood holders. That has turned around in the last two years and we almost have enough for a branch again. And it is an active group. Almost a third of the ward leadership was from our county. You know the same group of people who do most of the work? I guess it takes a certain dedication to drive 30 miles one way to go to church.
Rumors started flying when the presidencies of the Relief Society, the Primary, and the Young Women were all reorganized on the same Sunday. None of the newly called sisters were from our county. So people began speculating what that meant. Maybe we might finally get our branch back.
At this point I have to point out that several people, some close friends of mine, already knew what was going on. But Mormon culture dictates that we not talk about it, if we know, to those who don't know. So I did what we all would do. I started fishing for answers. I pretended like I knew and sooner or later peices start to slip out. What's the expression about any two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead? In this case it wasn't just two people. (Our tendency to non-transparent decision making would be another post altogether).
In my adventures in Mormon history, I meet lots of members outside my local circle. My first hint of what was going on came from someone outside my stake. Several of the stakes in Tennessee have grown large. They often have 12 or more units. The stake next to ours was no exception. They wanted to split, but several units were branches, not wards. The answer was to change the stake boundries to include my county, then the it could be combined with the branch in the county just east of us to create a ward. That with a few other similar changes will allow the stake to split late in April.
Now, I'm not one to begrudge the church opportunities for growth, but this must be inspired because the benefits are not obvious. Our new ward building (it has already been built) will be further away - and smaller - than our old one, and the only route to get there is on narrow curvy roads. Our new stake center will be even further way, almost twice as far, as our current one. Sigh.
The growth is necessary. The changes will allow for growth. Change, however, is painful.
1 week ago