We often talk about our spiritual journeys. But let’s think for a moment about spiritual doorways: not the journey, not the destination, but the passageway itself from one place to another. Sometimes we don’t even know we’ve stepped through a doorway until we turn around and see it behind us. Sometimes we stand in a doorway for a long time, hovering betwixt and between two different parts of our lives.
Organizations, too, have a journey and pass through doorways. Our church, along with churches across the country, has found itself in just such a betwixt and between place during the 15 months of the COVID pandemic. We’re no longer where we were, and we’re not quite sure what comes next. We are hovering in the doorway, waiting to see what unfolds before us.
If we’re standing in the doorway, we’re likely standing on the sill, the bottom of the doorframe that marks the threshold. In ancient Rome this was called the “limen,” and that’s where we get the word “liminal.” As a church (perhaps as individuals), we are in liminal space. We are neither one place nor the next; we are stopped (not to say stuck) on the threshold.
Liminal space isn’t easy. We thought we knew where we were going: with our jobs, with our children’s education, with our health, with seeing friends, with church, as a society. We thought we knew the road we were on. Then COVID arrived and we discovered we were no longer on that road, but instead were waiting in some in-between space for much longer than we would have liked. In fact, even as we receive vaccines and COVID recedes in Massachusetts, we’re still there. We’re not sure exactly what’s coming next.
Throughout this year, your Prudential Committee has been explored this liminal space by telling stories. We leaned into our role as spiritual leaders for the church, in addition to our responsibilities as fiduciary leaders. We considered the soul of First Unitarian Church. We told stories of times of strength and times of struggle in our church’s living memory. We discussed the core values we saw at work in our congregation. These practices helped us remember who we were as leaders in First Unitarian Church during a year where we couldn’t always tell where we were going.
In the next church year, we plan to bring these practices to the congregation as a whole. We are planning a year of Reconnecting at First Unitarian Church. In worship and in small groups, we’ll reconnect to the soul of First U. As our church emerges from this liminal space—as younger children become vaccinated, and we hope to move into a post-COVID world—we will let the wisdom that we discern lead us into a new and emerging future.
One of the first steps will be to fully return to in-person church. We hope to see everyone back in the fall. Wiogora will take place in person this summer (register at wiogora.org) and children’s faith development will be back in person with all necessary safety protocols in the fall. We are planning to be singing (both choir and congregation) by September and have a big music year planned to celebrate Will Sherwood’s final year as our Director of Music. We will continue to livestream services and plan more engagement and outreach with the new people who are finding us on the internet.
In the meantime, our church is now open every Sunday. The graduating seniors share their wisdom with us this coming Sunday, and we’re planning an outdoor service followed by an all-ages party on June 20. Summer services begin June 27 in the sanctuary and online. Your community is already regathering. I hope you’ll join us this summer and next fall to help connect to the soul, and discern the future, of First Unitarian Church.
Ellen Foley, Moderator
Sarah Stewart, Minister