This is my first article to you in my new role as a servant of the servants of God here in Queensland. Due to the latest South East Queensland COVID lockdown, I find myself in an in-between space at the moment. In-between Bishop Emeritus Paul Smith’s farewell and my postponed installation. Anthropologists call this time ‘liminal space.’ The word liminal means threshold, change, transition, the dormant time between an old reality and a newer reality.
We live much of our lives in liminal space, whether that’s waiting for medical results, for the rains to come, news from our loved ones, a job offer, or to hear when the latest lockdown might end. This liminal space is an important phase of transition from the old to the new. Often we are tempted to rush it and to bring it to a premature end. Living in liminality, however, is an important part of growing, living and maturing.
This column has been renamed Living Faithfully and Prayerfully. We live faithfully because God is faithful. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, writes that the church celebrates fidelity, it blesses marriage, it blesses the vows of monastic life, it blesses the commitment of membership to a local congregation, it lives by the regular round of worship, the weekly prayer of believers, the constant celebration of the Eucharist, the meeting of the same people time after time, because they are the soil of growth.
We go on reading the same book and reciting the same creeds, not, we hope and pray, to limit and control, but to make sure that we promise to go on listening, to what we believe is an inexhaustible story, a pattern of words and images given by God that we shall never exhaust. Hence, the church is invited to live faithfully.
The church is also invited to live prayerfully. As we find ourselves in liminal spaces and times, we are invited by God to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church. Where is God leading us? Where is God already at work? What is God revealing to us about the world around us?
When we live in liminal times, we often struggle to see beyond the threshold in front of us. We know that the wounding and death we experienced on Good Friday has brought our old story and journey to an end. But as we enter the in-between day of Holy Saturday, we are not quite sure what the new story will hold. We are unsure when resurrection Sunday will happen and how it will unfold.
This is very much the journey of the Christian church in today’s society in Australia. If we are honest, the old narrative of the church in Australia, of Sunday mornings when most mums and dads with 2.7 kids hopped in their Kingswoods to go to church, is no longer a lived reality in most of our communities.
But while that story has died, God hasn’t died. He is just as much at work in our communities as he was back in the day of ‘football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.’ He is bringing to birth new life, new growth and new hope into our communities: ‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland’ (Isaiah 43:19).
Hence, God invites us to live faithfully, to continue to gather around his Word and the Sacraments and be sustained by his life-giving gospel. He is also inviting us to live prayerfully, to discern and perceive where he is at work, creating new life and new growth so that all may come to know Christ. I desire that through this column, many different members of our Queensland Lutheran community will be able to provide food for thought on what it means to live faithfully and prayerfully in today’s society.
Faithfully and Prayerfully,