I’ve been doing a lot of wrestling in 2022. Mainly, the uncertainty of each day and what’s coming next is what has kept me up at night. I’ve since learned that there is a term for this mental place: liminal space.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, theologian Shelly Rambo, defined the feeling of being in a liminal space as follows, “Life as it once was cannot be retrieved . . . life ahead cannot be envisioned.”
Personally, I am living in the liminal space of the empty nest. I cannot go back to when my child needed me in those everyday tangible ways. I also cannot fathom how my child will need me as they navigate through the world as an adult. The purgatory of empty nest, for me, is the not knowing. If you don’t need me to teach you how to tie your shoes, then what am I good for? If you don’t need me to wake you up for school and to stay on you about your homework, then what am I doing here? How are you eating every night if I am not the one cooking you dinner? This liminal space can be quite torturous. But…there is also an invitation for evolution. I am simultaneously being invited to let go but also to find new footing as the parent of an adult child. It’s scary. It’s unprecedented for me. I often long for the days past, where although stressful, I knew my role. These days, the uncertainty is often overwhelming. However, the open invitation to redefine relationship and to forge new levels of intimacy in ways I never thought possible are also waiting for me to embrace them.
What are our liminal spaces? In our homes? In our churches? And in our communities?
As the ACM for congregational vitality, I know that a lot of our churches want to go back to the way that they were when they were their most vibrant. But we can’t. It’s impossible to go backward. And even though we don’t know clearly what the future holds for us, we have been given an incredible opportunity to imagine what the endless possibilities that God has for us could look like. We do not serve a God who revels in past glories. We serve a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Simultaneously, God Is ever speaking, ever adjusting, ever listening, and ever blessing. Morning by morning, there are NEW mercies to which we are exposed.
What things do you need to let go of in order to live freely in your invitational liminal space? What things would actually hold you back from reaching the next level of blessing/evolution/enlightenment in your life if you were to continue to hold on to them too tightly? The life of your church? The life of your ministry? The life of your faith in action?
Come. Let us dwell in the liminal together. God is there. God is ready. God is speaking. Are we listening?
Rev. Shernell Edney Stilley Associate Conference Minister for Congregational Vitality firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers and Reflection During the Annual Meeting, we took time to pause, reflect, and remember all of those who we hold dear to us that have transitioned in the last year or more. It is important for us all to allow for space to mourn, and to know that we are not alone in our moments of sorrow. If you feel you need a helping hand in grieving/mental health wellness, please email: email@example.com
The New York Conference, UCC send our condolences to the family and friends of
We are here to listen, to have you bounce ideas off of us, to ask for specific resources,
to pray and perhaps even to laugh together.
HAPPENINGS AROUND NEW YORK CONFERENCE
CONFERENCE TRANSITIONAL CORNER
WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU!
As our conference moves forward in this time of transition, your Transitional Conference Minister (TCM) and your Board are eager to hear from you as our transitional “plan” would not be complete without the input and insight of you, the members of the New York Conference.
To facilitate meaningful and manageable dialogue, TCM Rev. Dr. Marsha Williams and Conference Moderator, Rev. Judy Van Kennen, are hosting Association-wide Town Hall Zoom meetings. This will be your opportunity to share your ideas, thoughts, hopes and dreams for the future of our conference.
Where are we headed? What are the challenges before us? What ministries should we prioritize in the coming years?
Please see the schedule of upcoming Town Hall gatherings. If you don’t see your association listed, DON’T PANIC! We are scheduling time with every association which will be announced soon.
Mark your calendars and plan to join Marsha and Judy for faithful and fruitful conversation.
Oneida Saturday, September 24, 2022 9am-12Noon | In-Person Trinity Church, 215 W Court St, Rome, NY 13440-5707 Reformed TBA
Suffolk Saturday, November 5, 2022 Registration begins at 8:30am Meeting is from 9am- 12Noon | In-Person The Congregational Church of Huntington 30 Washington Drive, Centerport, NY 11721
Susquehanna Sunday, September 25, 2022
Western Sunday, November 6, 2022 Lunch at Noon – Meeting at 1pm Angola Congregational Church 132 N Main Street, Angola NY 14006
Search and Call Basics for Churches in Transition (Part Two)
A congregation’s time of pastoral transition can be an opportunity for a heart-felt and honest evaluation of past ministries, and a prayerful discernment of possible future ministries.
When a congregation has had a long-term pastor (7 years or more), or has had a difficult or sudden parting with a pastor, (such as dismissal, resignation, fitness review, or even a sudden death), it is often best to seek an Intentional Interim to assist with ministry evaluation and discernment.
Specially trained for transitional ministries, Intentional Interims are hired in part, to assist a congregation through the grief of a difficult parting. Every ounce of energy a congregation puts into their Interim work pays off when they begin to create their Local Church Profile and search for their next settled pastor.
Congregations often get impatient with the time it takes for an Intentional Interim to ‘do the work’, but by many measures, this is time well-spent. Increased awareness of congregational systems, communication processes, congregational expectations, cultural sensitivities, worship styles, these are all just a few of the gifts that come from the Intentional Interim process. Intentional Interims are hard to find, and are in high demand, in part because of the value they bring to a congregation’s transition process.
Regardless of whether a congregation is using an Intentional Interim, or supply preachers or a designated pastor during their transition time, each will consult with their ACM on building their Local Church Profile.
The ACM will secure the ’11-Year Report’ that is attached to the Profile. They will also secure the MissionInSite demographic report that can accompany their Profile. This report can be very useful to congregations in sharing information about their general demographics, and can be helpful to the pastors seeking a call.
In addition to any Interim work a congregation does, there are budget considerations to address: Salary, benefits, housing options, phone and mileage reimbursement. Also, vacation, personal, and study leave. The ACM can be very helpful in applying the New York Conference Compensation Guidelines to a proposed compensation package.
When a congregation is ready to call a pastor, the ACM can assist with the Call Agreement. With the basics of the compensation package set, the scope of the work expected can be detailed here, so that both pastor and congregation are clear about what is expected of both parties. When the happy day comes to schedule the new pastor’s installation, another call to the ACM is in order to check on their availability: this ensures that they can be present for an important celebration of both the end of the transition process and the beginning of a new pastoral relationship for the congregation.
Search and Call Basics Part One and Part Two have covered some of the general Search and Call steps for congregations in transition. Each church will have their own unique journey through transition. The key for church leaders will be to utilize the many resources the Associate Conference Ministers (ACM’s) have at their disposal.