Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thresholds and Transitions

One of the ways people know they are headed somewhere is that they step or pass through portals, doorways, or over thresholds.  That horror movies use this motif is proof that not all passage is safe or without risk.  Some portals are "points of no return."  Think Adam and Eve and the fiery sword of Genesis 3:23-24.

Other significant moments are more like a "foot in the door."  A different effort must follow that commitment or somebody ends up losing a symbolic shoe. Even being "thrown out of the nest" is a threshold moment of decision for someone different than one one making the "commitment."

In all cases portals are known by one's passage.  The good or bad of each portal or threshold is always the possession of the one moving through or not.

This happens a bunch in the lives of churches, especially churches that are growing or healing.  The Alban Institute has written extensively about how churches teeter totter over and back at these threshold moments.  Its pretty simple but heart-renderingly difficult to get established beyond the threshold.  Its difficult because each next step forces old habits and practices to make way for new ways of doing things.

I worshipped in a very small parish that started a weekly email newsletter.  The "matriarch" and several members didn't "do email" and she like them received a copy in the mail.  We have the same provision here at Advent.  But all it took was one phone call from an already emailed friend.  So what was originally a tool for communicating became the symbol for "bad" communication.

Her reaction was first to be offended at being left out.  After a conversation or two with the priest (not me, BTW) and some friends she was able to identify a deeper fear under her being offended.  They were lucky that she recognized and admitted her fears.  Think of her experience as being cut from the "grapevine."

Going back to NO email newsletter didn't make sense.  But leaving that gap between Tuesday's email and Wednesday's snail mail didn't work either.  The compromise was to delay the email's transmission. That was easy.  But it wasn't until everyone was brought through the portal.

Advent is marvelously and painfully at several thresholds.  Most have to do with simple growth. Some have to do with the fuse of time burning.  And others have to do with how we forget and remember.

That we are considering budgets, vestries, committee chairs, worship leadership options, physical plant development AND maintenance is a spiritual necessity of our passage in becoming more and more of what God hopes for us to become.  That we have the moments of a new year and an annual meeting should help us to take several of the first steps need to have us on the other side.

Granted we will be taking on more than we will leave behind.  That's what it means to be a people of tradition and faith.  Our passages, whether in the election of someone new to the vestry or the revision of a budget to accommodate new staffing or the appointment of committee leadership or the redesigning the bricks in the patio depend on every step we take not just the ones that get us over the threshold.

Its not just what we do, its what we do NEXT that can glorify God just as much.

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