At the time of this writing, we are nearing the end of the season of Lent. It strikes me how similar the work of Intentional Interim Ministry coincides with our call to the wilderness during Lent. For churches in transition, this time can be daunting as they deal with an uncertain future. Like Lent, it can feel like a time of intense waiting, but it can also be a sacred space as churches do the hard work of discerning who they are and who God is calling them to be. It’s the already and the not yet…that liminal space where all the hard work happens.

“Liminal Spaces” are those in-between times, where you are on the edge of change, but you are not quite there yet. In building terms, it would be the hallway that connects two rooms, or the breezeway that connects the inside of the building to the world outside. It’s not just a pause in the action between two things, but instead a time that is ripe for rich growth. We know that during Lent, we are all called to that liminal space, even as we are ready for Easter to come. The darkness of Lent makes the light of Easter brighter, and we are better able to appreciate the fullness of the Resurrection.

Churches are called to this same posture during times of transition. The quick response for many churches is to begin the search for a new minister, filling the pulpit as quickly as possible. For them, the work of a search committee begins as soon as the Pastor announces that they are leaving. While this might feel good in the moment, this liminal space between pastors is a great opportunity for self-examination. Who are you as a church? And who has God called you to be? Just as we have intentional practices for self-reflection and growth during the season of Lent, we can apply these same disciplines to the process of discernment for the call for a new minister. It is a time of intentional reflection and listening, rather than a to-do list with items checked off. It is a time to connect who you have been with who you will be. The darkness of uncertainty is not a cause for anxiety, but rather a time of opportunity for growth and re-visioning. We can learn to pause and reflect, just as we do during Lent. We can make the most of the opportunity for God to speak.

For churches in transition, how are you using this time for self-reflection? How have the practices of Lent informed your churches understanding of waiting for the next steps in the life of your church?
How would the search process look different if you imagine it as an intentional liminal space?