The world we knew. . . where you’d see someone for the first time in a long time and not think twice about shaking their hand or giving them a hug.
Or where we’d stand shoulder to shoulder at a sporting event or music concert (not to mention church 🙂 . . . ), feeling the energy of the moments and not worry if we were going to “catch something” or leave in a potentially altered health state.
And the world that is yet to come. The world that is what our new reality looks like as we assimilate day to day life experiences in changed ways.
In reading an article by Nathan Kirkpatrick, the managing director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, I was struck by his frankness and it pushed me to think about things that I guess I’ve just been in denial about for a few weeks.
He suggests that the COVID-19 crisis turns could be viewed in three different ways. It could be a “blizzard,” a “winter” or the beginning of a “little ice age.”
A blizzard – a storm – that we weather and then life returns pretty much to normal as it was before the storm hit.
A winter – a protracted season of ongoing crisis – possibly as long as 18 – 24 months, trying to figure out how to distance, then try “normal” only to find that doesn’t work, then distancing again. Ultimately asking at what point does distance become estrangement.
Or – a new epoch.
What if we end up “remaking our institutions, reforming entire industries, reshaping what we mean by community? What if the much-lamented anticipated closure of 40% of congregations in the United States in the next 30 years happens instead in the next 30 months? What then?”
Reading his words last night really caused me to pause.
I guess I haven’t let myself think about “what if” worship never returns the way we are used to. What if moving forward, families sit 6 fit apart, everyone wears a face mask in worship, and some are never comfortable coming to worship period?
Hugging is pretty much a thing of the past! What does communion look like? Certainly it cannot be the way it has always been.
These questions felt (and still feel) heavy to me.
We are in a liminal space.
A liminal space is a time/experience or state of being where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is when we find oursevles in our lives “betwixt and between” – having left one stage of life but not yet enetered the next. We enter this space when we face extremely challenging situations – losing a job, a loved one, facing an illness, the birth of a child, or a major relocation. Or – a global pandemic.
In this space there is a chance for something genuinely new to happen. We are teachable and humbled.
Honestly, if we allow ourselves to face the reality we are in right now – we are all in a liminal space.
And, as so beautifully said by Richard Rohr,
“Like we see in scripture over and over again, we are led where we do not want to go – not once, but many times in our lives. In this unknown space between here and there, younger and older, past and future, life happens. And, if we attend, we can feel the Holy Spirit moving with us in a way that we may not be aware of in more settled times. We can alllow reality – even in its darkness – be our teacher.”
How can you allow this liminal space to impact you today?
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
Isaiah 41:10