The Bishop’s E-pistle: Standing on the Threshold

Shortly before my ordination to the priesthood, the Diocese of Los Angeles held a pre-ordination retreat for the eight ordinands, led by the Rev. Malcom Boyd of Are You Running With Me, Jesus? fame.

He began by identifying our present moment as a liminal time; we were at the doorway, ready to step forward into a new identity of priest. What was it like to be able to look forward and back from the doorway? We could see our prior lives, and we could, in some sense, see our future life, but we had not yet taken that final step over the threshold. 

For seven of us that weekend, the threshold of priesthood was our most consequential journey. 

But the eighth was dying of cancer. Malcom hadn’t known that prior to the retreat, and I remember the ordinand gently explaining, “I am also in a liminal time. But the doorway I am in is not the same doorway that you’re talking about. The doorway to priesthood isn’t nearly as dominant for me as the doorway to death.”

At this moment, we Americans are in a liminal space. We are on a threshold–but we do not yet know what path lies on the other side of the doorway.

And like my retreat with the ordinands, I recognize that there may be multiple thresholds. What is dominant and urgent for some may be the opposite for others.

What do you see across the threshold upon which you stand?

So we wait. Liminal spaces are rarely comfortable; I know that I had to be very deliberate last night and this morning about taking care of my body and soul. I ate (mostly) healthily; I got up this morning and walked while the sun rose; I said Morning Prayer and listened for God’s voice in the biblical readings.

There is a reason that spiritual practices are like athletic training: we practice and practice during normal times, so that when we encounter obstacles we have the stamina to persevere and be resilient. I pray that whatever your spiritual practices and grounding are, you may draw strength from them in the coming days and weeks.

National liminal spaces are important, but they are not THE liminal space for Christians: “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9) Jesus is our ultimate threshold; the one who ushers us into eternal life; the one in whom earth and heaven meet; the one who unifies, saves, protects, purifies, absolves, and heals.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)