From our President: Taking advantage of this ‘most teachable’ space

August 05, 2020

Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled. Liminality keeps us in an ongoing state of shadowboxing …

— Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr

I write this month’s message from Montreat, often called a liminal space in the Presbyterian Church. Why is this so? Perhaps it is that we leave our daily routines behind when we come here. Perhaps it is the majesty of the mountains that God has lifted before our eyes. Perhaps it is the fellowship of the Spirit we experience here.

My call to seminary was nurtured and confirmed in this place. In fact, many of our ministers report that they first heard God’s voice calling them in one of our many camps or conference centers.

Normally, when I come here in August, it is to participate in the Board of Pensions/Presbyterian Foundation Well-Being Retreat. That won’t happen this year because of the pandemic and, instead, we will offer a series of Well-Being Respite events digitally. Having to replace Well-Being Retreat with virtual programs is disappointing. It certainly makes the hikes a lot more complicated.

COVID-19 has us scrambling for new ways of engagement. A national reckoning has us actively working to dismantle structural racism. We are in a liminal space, standing on a threshold, poised for transformation. The Board of Pensions is taking advantage of this uncomfortable space, where we are “most teachable.”

All of us have a responsibility to renew our minds. I am personally fortunate to be in the second year of my Doctor of Ministry program at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Seeking to participate in God’s work is an ongoing process, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) encourages and supports lifelong learning.

The Board supports lifelong learning through Board University offerings, which promote spiritual, health, financial, and vocational well-being. To support Benefits Plan members in making the most of this space in which they are living and working, the Board has adapted its educational offerings.

CREDO gatherings are being reimagined as Sabbath experiences with virtual coaching and small groups. The THRIVE seminar, for those approaching retirement, has been transformed into a series of interactive, online courses. First Call, First Steps for seminarians approaching graduation now better meets the needs of a digital generation. Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations continues full speed ahead, with ministers completing e-learning modules and session members now able to complete training from their living rooms!

As a result, we’ve dramatically enhanced our skill in delivering virtual learning. We are coming out of this space with a formidable learning platform, able to serve more people through Board University, and serve them better. Already, our e-learning library has grown, and online registrations are hitting new highs with each webinar.

Lifelong learning serves to strengthen and sustain us on our journey of faith, enabling us to carry on with our holy work. Let’s use this liminal space in which we find ourselves to steel our determination to remain fully engaged as God is with us. Remember Christ Jesus promises, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Grace and peace,

The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer