Listening for the Spirit in a liminal time

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As we prepare to move out of the pandemic, what hopes for the future and signs of new life is the Spirit showing us? Photo: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

As I write this on the cusp of the spring equinox, I am so deeply grateful for the gift of light as the spring sunshine has melted the snow, is greening the grass and is offering such promise for warmth and renewal. The late afternoon sun pours into my west-facing living room windows and floods the room with light and warmth. We are feeling the same emerging hope as we watch the rollout of vaccines and hear the promise of the end of the pandemic—though with some caution as it will take months yet, and there are no guarantees as variants swirl around us and in the world. This is a liminal time at the edge of ending the pandemic and not yet beginning the life beyond it—but hopeful.

We are also now between Easter and Pentecost. Surely this was a liminal time for the disciples as they reveled in the appearances of the risen Christ with them and absorbed the implications of what the resurrection meant for everything they thought they knew. We see them struggling to come to terms with the possibility—doubting and believing, hoping and rejoicing. Then, at the Ascension, Jesus leaves them. His presence in their midst would no longer be experienced in the same way, and he leaves them in charge! What an utterly foolish and courageous act. Jesus entrusts this motley group of disciples, who had betrayed and doubted him, with the precious gift of the gospel and promises the Holy Spirit will be with them to guide and direct.

We have been entrusted in the same way with sharing the gospel in our time. That time includes the pandemic, when everything we knew has been tossed up in the air and changed. Now, as the end of this long struggle emerges, we are still entrusted to share the gospel. What has changed? Will we simply go back to the way things were before? Have we learned new ways to share God’s presence? What have we lost? Where is our hope in resurrected new life?

Some may be afraid to be in public gatherings for many months to come. Some may want to stay online where there is a certain intimacy, safety and online equality. Others are exhausted from the efforts to keep going. Others are champing at the bit to launch into new ideas and ways of being. Our Indigenous communities have faced the deaths of key ministry leaders and are searching for new ways to raise up the pastors needed.

Like the disciples, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit—and she is here among us. The Spirit has been weaving in and out of our Zoom worship and our pastoral care “at a distance” and is still calling us onward. We need to stop and listen. Where are we hearing the Spirit?

I invite you to join Anglicans across Canada in a new project, Surprised by the Spirit! A group of spiritual formation leaders in Canada has created a resource to help you listen—with fellow parishioners, friends or colleagues—to where the Spirit has been, and still is, surprising us as we prepare to move out of the pandemic. The resource is available at www.anglican.ca/spirit.

It concludes with the invitation to share, over the next five months, your responses to these questions:

  • What has our community learned from the experience of this past year?
  • What questions is our church being called to wrestle with?
  • What hopes for the future and signs of new life is the Spirit showing us?

Share your thoughts with us in writing, a video, a poem or art! Be creative. We will gather them up and celebrate with them as we approach Thanksgiving 2021!

Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth!

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Archbishop Linda Nicholls

Archbishop Linda Nicholls

Archbishop Linda Nicholls is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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