liminal – of or relating to a transition or initial stage of a process
The past two years have felt like liminal time to me. We, as a community, have been focused transition. In our case, the focus has largely on a transition of physical space, moving from 255 H Street to 36600 Niles Blvd. Personally, I felt this most intensely during the first three months of the year when we were between buildings, gather as a community in borrowed space.
I really expected that feeling to be over by now, now that we’ve lived in our new facility for half a year. It isn’t, at least not for me.
Pastor Brenda and I have talked about this. She identifies a sense of loss of focus. We were, for so long and so intently, focused on getting our building completed and getting moved in, that the completion of that task has left her feeling less focused.
That’s part of it for me, but certainly not all of it. I’m also experiencing this as a time ripe with possibilities and filled with demands. It feels as if something new is just around the corner. Meanwhile, I am feeling some stress about things I need to do this school year: I need to plan and lead a Confirmation Class ; I need to schedule and lead classes to train new members of our Care Team; I need to figure out a new approach for new member classes; and there’s a pledge campaign starting later this month.
Meanwhile, I celebrate with deep joy the new faces see in worship, returning regularly, and I wonder what new thing God has in store for us thanks to the gift of these additions to the community. I am really trying to keep from being so busy I miss what our still speaking God has to say to us about that new thing.
Pastor Brenda preached at the 150th anniversary worship service at Eden United Church of Christ in Hayward on the last Sunday of September. Talking about her sermon with me, she pointed out that the primary, formative stories in scripture are about God’s people being on the move. Abraham and Sarah move from Ur to an unknown, promised land. The Hebrews wander in the desert for 40 years as they seek to become a new, freed community. The Babylonians exile the Hebrews who must find a new was to be faithful in a foreign land. Jesus wanders around the Sea of Galilee, proclaiming the good new as he journeys to the cross and resurrection.
Eden UCC can’t rest on its 150-year history and the good old days never really were. Niles Discovery Church can’t rest on our three-year history and we can build good new days, but they won’t be stress-free or settled. Being settled and prosperous and stress-free is an abnormal part of the story. Being on the move and in transition is what is normal. In fact, I say that being on the move and in transition is what being faithful looks like.
I expected that this feeling of being in liminal time would be over by now. I was wrong. God is a God of transformation, loving us into something new. When one is faithful, being liminal time is normal. Learning to be comfortable with liminal time – well, maybe I have room to grow as a disciple.
P.S. Elsewhere in this edition of The Bell, you will read a letter from our Music Director Jonathan Borchardt announcing that he is moving to the Midwest and so will be resigning from his position at the end of 2015 – one more example of how we live in liminal time. We will have an opportunity to formally thank him in December. Watch future newsletters for more details.