August 2019

‘Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!’ Psalm 27:14

For me, one of the most compelling parts of the disciples journey with Jesus comes at the end of the gospel stories. It is that period between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension into heaven. Jesus is alive, but he is not with them in the same way that he had been before. Now he comes and goes, they are no longer following him and trying to figure out what it is he wants them to do, but instead they are left to try and work out what it means to follow him when they cannot see him.

This kind of transitional period is described, by Franciscan priest and theologian Richard Rohr, as liminal space, a space “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence.”

And that can be an uncomfortable place to be. Certainly the picture we get of the disciples in that time is one of a group of fearful men, hiding away, full of doubts and unsure of what they ought to be doing (In John’s gospel we’re told that 7 of them had gone out fishing, a picture, perhaps, that they had sought to return to their old lives).

As I write this it is just a few weeks before I officially become your full-time minister and so for us, for me and for you, this is too is a time of transition - a liminal space.
And it is only natural that, for both us, there may be doubts, fears and uncertainty about what the future may hold. Some things will undoubtedly change, maybe for the better or maybe not, and the great risk for all of us is that we do not yet know exactly what these are or how they will turn out. There may then be a longing to retreat to how things used to be, or a desire to rush ahead and establish a new pattern as soon as possible.

However, Rohr argues that the liminal space is not just one of transition, but can also be a period of transformation.
“Much of the work of the biblical God and human destiny itself is to get people into liminal space and to keep them there long enough to learn something essential and genuinely new. It is the ultimate teachable space.”

And so let us not rush ahead, settling into new patterns too quickly, nor spend this time hankering for the way things used to be, but let us instead embrace this period of transition, allowing it to teach and transform us. Let us spend this time waiting on God, allowing Him to speak to us and show us the way forward together.

God bless,
Dave Bartram

“Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are.”  - Richard Rohr