Chip’s Message for May, 2020

Tami and I have enjoyed watching Some Good News, a weekly show on YouTube hosted by John Krasinski. In each episode, Krasinski shares the good news he is seeing around the world in the midst of the pandemic. First, it’s noteworthy that he actually believes there is good news to share. So, he seeks to deliver it each week in response to our quarantine and isolation, both of which can and do make many believe good news doesn’t exist now, if it ever did. It’s not a denial of the present situation, but a celebration of the way we human beings can continually respond in adaptive ways to what life throws our way. I hear in his show an answer to the question, “How do we live in this time when life isn’t what it used to be, and we aren’t sure yet what it will be?”

I like the idea of searching for some good news so much that I think it would be a good exercise for us. Where is some good news in our church’s ministry? Our worship services have pivoted online, and we are connecting with more people in many states as well as people locally who don’t normally come to our in-person services. Our commitment to food justice continues in different ways. You can see a picture from 300-feet up, thanks to John Bentley, of how our dedicated Pantry team is handing out food and accommodating the drastic increase in food insecurity and need. JanPeek and Noontime Meal are receiving food deliveries from us thanks to the leadership of Pat Prauda and the people who signed up to make it happen over the last three months. Our Bible studies, commissions and committees are meeting over Zoom to be community, study together, and do the ministry of the church. In the month of May, we are raising Mental Health Awareness, seeking to erase the stigma of mental illness and encourage ways to take care of our mental health. We are finding new ways to do Sunday school with our kids, our youth are meeting weekly together, plans are in the works to celebrate our graduates, meetings are happening for virtual coffee hours on Sundays and games during the week. We haven’t postponed or canceled our ministry. We’ve adapted so that the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ is known in and through our lives and ministry. In these and many more ways, we are searching for answers to the question above. How do we live in this time when life isn’t what it used to be, and we aren’t sure yet what it will be?

The Apostle Paul wrestled with that same question in his letter to the Romans. One example is this: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Paul recognized that Christians live in an in-between time, what is often called “liminal space.” The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen which means “threshold” and refers to points or places of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the space/time between “what was” and “what comes next.” It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. In her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean writes, “Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.”

I believe we are in a liminal space right now. This space isn’t new to us. Just look at our capital campaign. We’ve been preparing our building for the next ten years of what God will want to do through us. We know what it’s like to be here as people of faith. We’ve been in thresholds before, the transition from one pastor to the next, the move from one kind of Sunday school to another, the shift from some forms of mission projects to others. All of these and many more examples invited us to stand in the threshold for a time and wait, to let the waiting form us in ways that prepare us for where God will lead us next. So, we continue worship, pray, study scripture, feed the hungry, support the homeless, teach our children, gather in fellowship, build community, give generously, all the practices that have helped us experience God, but with the added invitation now to listen. What is God saying to us now? What is the virus, the isolation, the quarantine, the distance revealing to us about next ministries to develop? That’s how we will live the question, “How do we live in this time when life isn’t what it used to be, and we aren’t sure yet what it will be?”

One way in which the Session is answering this question is with a Re-Opening Task Force. Tami and I asked the elders on Session what their hopes for re-opening are. Not what procedure we should follow. Not what solutions we need to implement. Those things will come in time. Instead, we asked them and would ask all of you reading this to think first about what you hope for our re-opening. We want to re-connect with why we gather and what makes it important, before we develop how we will gather. Otherwise, we’ve missed the liminal opportunity to understand our purpose as a church and how will we live into the next normal faithfully.

I think that the best news of all in the midst of this liminal time is that God is with us. That’s not just some good news. That is the Good News. God is with us at the threshold. God is with us in our grief and loss. God is with us in our isolation and quarantine. God is with us as we pivot and adapt. God is with us as we serve and continue our ministry. God is with us as we put our faith into practice. We may not know yet where we are going and who we will become and what we will do next, but we do know that God is with us in this time of standing in the doorway, this liminal space, loving us and preparing us to continue to worship and serve faithfully.

Thank you for your faithfulness in our ministry during this time. Thank you for inviting your family and friends to our worship services online. Thank you for sharing your stories and your faith through the Checking Our Pulse emails. Thank you for sending your prayer requests to us. Thank you for your many gifts to support our shared ministry and the lives of so many people. And, thank you for your patient, faithful, listening with us as we live in the threshold of where God is leading us to connect with God, one another, and the world next.

~Thankful, Chip