Liminality. The word means “threshold time” like “Kairos,” which is a kind of time that comes from the space when a shuttle opens so that a weaver can put another thread into the rug or whatever it is that’s being woven. At the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, I remember several people describing it as a “liminal time,” a time in which something was opening up and everything would be changed.
Yesterday at church we honored graduates from Sterling, Colorado, High School, and Pr. Jeff Hanson spoke of this as a “threshold” experience for them: they were leaving a kind of educational experience behind, and moving on into a new kind of experienced: perhaps college, perhaps training in a trade – but they were about to make a huge change in their life. His point was that whatever kind of change they were embracing, he wanted them to remember that God was accompanying them, wherever and however they were going.
I took his words personally, because I, too, am making a comparable transition: on the 22nd of June I’m leaving the place where I made myself at home nine years ago, and moving to Minneapolis. It’s actually been home for a longer time than that: it was where I begin working on pastoral ministry forty years ago, and it’s a place that has in many ways become a second home town; I guess I’ve always sensed that I would make my way back to Minnesota eventually. But after being in Minnesota in March, I swallowed hard when I said to my realtor here, “It’s time.”
Of course, I’ve made this kind of transition many times before. When I left Colorado for graduate school in Montreal; when I left Montreal to begin work in campus ministry; when I left… Well, I should know that God has been with me in the past; I should know that God is faithful, and can be counted on. And I’m not exactly moving into unknown territory: I’m moving “back home,” and family is there. And yet I swallow hard, and I wonder why it’s so difficult to get down to the work of packing!
Liminality: “threshold time.” A threshold is a place between rooms; a place from which to look back and to look forward, both at the same time. St Stephen’s is in a “threshold time,” too: a time of looking back and looking forward as we stand at the doorway and discern who we have been and who God is calling us to be as a congregation, as we go about the business of calling a new pastor. It’s kind of exciting, is it not. And not just a little unnerving.
It might be a time to remember the “Holden Village” prayer that has become a part of morning prayer for me:
Lord God, you have called us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage – and here’s a place where I add a few other things: “a spirit of thanksgiving, a sense of humor, more patience than yesterday, a passion for your justice as you give me insight to understand it, an ever greater sense of wonder…” – knowing only that your hand is leading us, and your love supporting us.
In other words: one of the meanings of “liminality” is that whatever past we are leaving and whatever future we are moving forward into, we can count on the fact that God still has our backs, just as God has always had our backs in the past. And it helps that we have the backs of one another as well. Meanwhile: it’s time to get back to packing.
Pr. Allen Heggen