“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet…”
—Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Our spiritual theme for community exploration this month is thresholds. Theme-based ministry invites the entire congregation to reflect upon universal themes of religious life in creative ways each month. A threshold can be broadly defined as a transitional period from one state or reality to another. They are often potent times in our lives that can evoke a variety of emotions. We may experience self-doubt. We may have to grieve leaving behind old parts of ourselves on the other side of the threshold. We will explore many aspects of thresholds in the context of worship this month as we consider the lunar month of Ramadan, motherhood, liminal space, and sabbath. I hope you will help us to cultivate a robust theme-based ministry in our congregation by bringing the theme of the month into your committees and other activities in the life of the church. A theme-based check-in question you might want to consider this month could be: “Please share a time when you moved through an important threshold of your life and briefly explore the feelings that characterized that transitional period.”
Developmental ministry is one form of a threshold period in the life of a congregation. It is the time when a congregational engages in a prolonged period of specialized ministry that strives to heal old wounds, uncover latent potentials, and grow the capacities of the congregation to prepare for another settled ministry. It is an opportunity for the congregation to engage in self-assessment and reflection, enhance individual and collective awareness, and strengthen the structures and systems of the congregation. Developmental ministers typically come with a special degree of experience working with the particular challenges and opportunities that are to be addressed in such a period. In addition to the expected functions of ministry, we discern with congregational leaders and our UUA partners some of the areas for growth in congregational life. Examples of some of the goals we are working towards in this developmental ministry include practicing our covenantal commitments, discerning the mission of the congregation, updating our bylaws, and implementing good financial practices–among many others! When we’ve passed through this threshold period there should be a sense of renewal and vitality in the congregation that will provide a solid foundation for a successful settled ministry.
Thresholds are commonplace in our lives and they are especially attended to by religious communities. Major lifespan thresholds such as the birth of a child, coming of age, young adulthood, marriage, divorce, elderhood, and death are all marked by religious traditions in different ways and to different extents. A new medical diagnosis, the loss of a job, moving to a new neighborhood, a new school, coming out as LGBTIQ , transitioning genders, or stepping into a new role in your life are all important thresholds many have to cross on life’s journey. Spiritual communities help individuals, families, and couples to navigate new realities with the wisdom, experience, and grace found in community.
Beloved community reminds us that we can find the courage to take one more step or push ourselves a bit farther — to use more inclusive language — with the love and support of those around us. It reminds us that even when facing an unprecedented threshold like navigating a global pandemic we do not have to do it alone. Crossing the many thresholds of life can be exhilarating, terrifying, and transformative but they are made a little bit easier with the love and support of those with whom we share this incredible gift of life.