From the District Superintendent

Leadership in Liminal Times

Posted 15 October, 2019 by Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster

Everywhere I go it seems the conversation revolves around the same themes: challenging finances, changing demographics, aging properties, and emerging visions. So it's no surprise that Susan Beaumont had me at the title of her new book How to Lead When You Don't Know Where You're Going: Leading in a Liminal Season.

Honestly it resonates, as these excerpts from the beginning of the first chapter show, as a season of many questions and few easy answers:The problem is that the new thing is not yet apparent ... They are stuck in liminal space, stuck at a threshold between an ending and a new beginning ... Liminality fuels ambiguity and disorientation ... A liminal organization needs to unlearn old behaviors, challenge the status quo, experiment, take risks, and learn ... Organizational life is full of liminal experiences - seasons where something has ended, but a new thing has not yet begun. Seasons where watching and waiting can be difficult, overplanning can be futile, and it simply isn't helpful to pretend that we understand what happens next. 

Liminal seasons are challenging, disorienting, and unsettling. We strive to move forward with purpose and certainty. Instead, we feel as though we are trudging through mud, moving away from something comfortable and known, toward something that can't be known. 

Liminal seasons are also exciting and innovative. The promise of a new beginning unleashes creative energy, potential, and passion. All truly great innovations are incubated in liminality. God's greatest work occurs in liminal space

The words of Julian B. Rush's hymn In the Midst of New Dimensions also reverberates in my mind and spirit, heart and soul: In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways, who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering in their separate ways? Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain, may your blazing phoenix spirit resurrect the church again. God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar, we your people, ours the journey, now and ever, now and ever, now and ever more.

In the peace and hope of Christ,