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Volume 100, Number 2

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These are fundamental ethical principles of anthropology, also found across many other disciplines. And they come from the Christian tradition as well. In the Bible, the body is a metaphor for the Church, with each person contributing their part to the whole, for God’s household, in which each person has a role in the family. These are welcome challenges to paternalism, the notion that the “haves” should give to the “havenots.” When we work toward justice together, we find that each person has much to give, each is in need of receiving blessings from others, and we are all changed.

Really, it’s a lot like that episode from “The Brady Bunch” when Greg wanted to record an album with his five siblings. Peter’s voice started to change, and he panicked about letting down his family by singing poorly. At the last minute they wrote “When It’s Time to Change,” a new song that featured — rather than trying to hide — Peter’s changing adolescent voice. At performance time the brothers and sisters all swayed in time to the music, Greg in his fringed suede jacket and Cindy in her pigtails and white go-go boots.On the chorus Peter crackled, “When it’s time to change you’ve got to rearrange / Who you are and what you’re going to be.”


the nature of positive change. Whether it’s an anthropologist working as part of a team or a boy in a family band — when it comes to change, community matters. Peter had siblings, parents, and a devoted housekeeper to help him handle life’s changes. The Proverbs 31 woman had a family, and she had meaningful relationships with both the rich and the poor people in her town. Both as an anthropologist and as a mother, I rely on trusted friends and colleagues to help me find my way.

Change is inevitable and ongoing. The Proverbs 31 woman seems to have adeptly handled the continuing changes of everyday life as well as broader changes in public life, though I have to believe she had her bad days too. Peter’s voice changing was inevitable, though it still took him by surprise. And my applied anthropology was done in contexts of ongoing change in the lives of my research participants and their social worlds.

Sometimes I’m bold in the face of change, at least when it’s a diaper that can be changed in 20 seconds (give me 30 if the boy is wiggling). But change with more profound implications— like reducing social inequality or improving the environment or being calmer in my parenting— takes longer.

“We are invited to participate in change, but we aren’t in charge of change. Rather, there is a very good theological concept to keep in mind when we face change: God is in the long, and sometimes painful, process of transforming and redeeming the whole of the Creation.”

—Jay McDermond, professor of Christian ministry and spirituality, director of the
Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies

The kids didn’t need an anthropologist; they had Mrs. Brady and Alice there to cheer them on and help solve their dilemma. It’s easy for me to think I’m more like Peter Brady than the Proverbs 31 woman. Like Peter, I often respond to change with worry, embarrassment, or fear. But when I take a closer look, I see some common elements between these disparate things — anthropology, Peter Brady, the Proverbs 31 woman, Malinda, Courtney, and myself — that speak to

Hope emboldens us to work toward change that won’t be completed in our lifetimes. Love motivates us to try to improve conditions of life for other people in our world. Faith helps us work with confidence, even without seeing a clear path ahead. Faith, hope, and love empower us to be like the Proverbs 31 woman — and Peter Brady — laughing at the time to come.

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Read the Q & A with President Kim Phipps on Messiah College's strategic plan


Read more on community members' perspectives on change


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