I am notorious in my family for moving furniture around. The desire to change a room used to come on me all of a sudden. Once we lived in a big 100-plus year old house and my wife would come home and find two or three rooms rearranged. Or worse, she would come home and find me in the middle of re-arranging. That was much more stressful to her. (But I did clean as I went).
As I aged this urge to change the environment became less impulsive and more strategic as well as tactical. (The difference is that strategy is aimed at longer, more overarching goals while tactics deal with immediate issues).
My congregations got used to me moving stuff around in their vast sanctuaries, too — and offices, program spaces, and courtyards. If it wasn’t fixed to the floor it would likely get moved. They say you can’t fight architecture — that the architecture of the space wins if all you do is simply move things around within it. For example, if it is a huge ornate space you cannot make it simple and intimate, nor does a small space with low ceilings suddenly become transcendent. But I have challenged that theory most of my life. What can be changed are previous assumptions and attitudes about the architecture.
Here in Geneva, in a former wine bar turned worship space, the furniture gets moved around regularly. We’ve tested numerous arrangements, especially during the pandemic as maximum space for social distancing is balanced against adequate capacity. It also has to do with themes of worship that beg for changes of perspective and “feel.” Advent and Lent, for example, are quieter, more introspective seasons while the season of Easter is a big, extroverted affair.
So the tactical approach to changing furniture addresses an immediate goal. Maybe one arrangement works well for winter — the cozy and intimate one — but when spring or summer arrive you want more openness and light. Or if you have a party you may move furniture around to accommodate the crowd. Tactical changes.
The strategic element to changing furniture around is change itself. One of the great sins of many churches is they become allergic to change. They get arthritis of the soul. But not churches only, so too any organization, business, or institution. Without planned change, and openness to unplanned changes, we become brittle. Brittle branches, bones, and minds break instead of bending.
The ability to change and adapt requires practice because we have an instinct to resist change and remain within our comfort zones. Change the furniture in a room and suddenly we see the room differently — it is not just cracks that appear but new possibilities and ideas we never thought of before. It is not change for change’s sake, but the “practice of change” for the sake of our personal and corporate health and longevity. It keeps us supple.
So, my fellow Genevans, instead of complaining about the changes to downtown streets and soon to come changes to the 5 & 20 corridor, embrace it. Practice the art of changing your routes, explore the new textures and ideas of the streetscape, wonder about “how” to utilize the new rather than cross your arms and harrumph. Get supple.