As I have stated before we, everyone, has found ourselves in a Liminal Season. Not just little bit here and there but a full fledge, we do not know where we are going, liminal season.
The liminal season is that time when a person or group are at the threshold between an ending and a beginning. It is that time when we really don’t know where or how to get to that “new” place. This isn’t just a transition. We don’t know where or how to go navigate through to find the beginning of the next thing.
According to Susan Beaumont, How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season, liminal seasons are challenging, disorienting and unsettling. We want to move forward with confidence and purpose, but we find ourselves stuck, frustrated and wondering if going “back” is a better option than moving forward into the unknown. Beaumont also states that liminal seasons can be exciting and innovative. The promise of something new and exciting can open the door to creative energy, potential and new way of being church. “All truly great innovations are incubated in liminality. God’s greatest work occurs in liminal space”
This week I heard over and over and over again, “When can we go back to our buildings”, and “when can we reopen our worship or reopen church? And “when we can have worship again” and “why can’t we go back to worship if we socially distance?”
First let me answer those questions. We can return to our buildings for gatherings when the Governor’s office says we can. Presently it looks like larger indoor gatherings are going to be part of late Stage 3. We are just beginning Stage 1. Plan on an online type of worship over the summer and probably into the early fall.
I have a hard time with the question “When can we reopen worship or have worship again?” As far as I know every congregation has found some way to be in worship together from ZOOM worship, prerecorded worship, Facebook or YouTube live and a few all read the scriptures and sermon at the same time each Sunday morning. That is worship. It may not be what is traditional to your congregation, but it is worship. So, to ask when can we “re open” worship is theologically and ecclesiastically incorrect. We never “closed” worship. We are, however, worshipping differently.
Why can’t we gather in our sanctuary if we socially distance and wear masks? The first part of the answer you need to refer back to what is going to happen at stage 3. Second part is that to do that you need to prepare by having sanitizers, masks, no paper bulletins, six feet distanced and ways to clean hard surfaces. That is the technical part of returning to our buildings. We also have to be prepared for those who don’t feel comfortable or shouldn’t be in gatherings because of health reasons. What about those who have connected to your congregation online and are unable to join physically in the sanctuary. There are many things to consider. The Presbytery Reentry team will be distributing guidelines soon after Memorial Day. There will be conversation groups over the next several weeks on these technical and adaptive issues. We do need to prepare for that time but lots of questions and conversations need to happen.
We have asked lots of needed and good questions about our life together. Yet, are we asking the best questions for the liminal season as an opportunity for creative innovative conversations and ministries? Let’s also take time to go deeper into those questions and understanding our place and the opportunities for ministry in the liminal season.
What are the opportunities for ministry in the midst of the lockdown? What is God calling us to be and do in the liminal season? Where is God calling us to be when we reach the other side? What are the creative and innovative ministries that are emerging or should be nurtured to emerge? How can we together discern where the Holy Spirit is working and leading us?
These are the questions to be asking and seeking. This liminal season, called Pandemic, is difficult, tough and unsettling but it is also the time to incubate, discern, challenge and follow where God is calling all of us to be on the other side of this season.