Limbo. Now there's an interesting word. I don't mean the West Indian dance in which one bends backwards to passunder a low bar. Nor do I mean the theology of 'the abode of souls excluded from the presence of God, but not condemned to any other punishment' (which incidentally, is a theological opinion which I and many others in the Church do not support). No, I mean that 'intermediate state or condition of awaiting a decision', which is something we have all experienced at some time in our lives. For those younger in years it can mean awaiting confirmation of a place at our chosen school, or the results of exams which may guarantee a place at a coveted university. It can be a job interview or, for pregnant mothers, the time between their expected and actual delivery date. For a man it can be that millisecond pause before she says 'yes, she will marry him!' And for many, the most difficult limbo can be awaiting medical news, either a diagnosis of our own illness, or the outcome of difficult treatment for those that we love. Given time, I'm sure that we could produce quite a long list of issues that place us in limbo. But whatever examples we come up with, they will all have one thing in common, they are usually situations where matters are taken out of our immediate control.
There are several folk in our community who are going through some form of limbo at the moment and the Benefice as a whole is facing change. For a number of years we have known that it will be necessary for us to join up with other parishes in order to keep a full time priest here. However, for complex and varied reasons, this cannot now happen and so the four churches of Hemyock, Culm Davy, Clayhidon and Culmstock will, in due course, be served by a half-time priest, working twenty five hours a week and who may well have another 'day job'. This will bring change to the way that the Benefice works and it also means that I will have to move to another full time post elsewhere. However, the Bishops and their staff have made it very clear that there will be no pressure put upon me to leave, but equally, I cannot stay forever - much as I might like to! Which places us all in a form of limbo, as we wait to see what the future holds.
This can be a real problem for us if we choose to ignore the fact that God is involved too. God has a plan for the Benefice and I have been privileged to be a part of that plan, just as Margaret, Tony and many other priests were before me. Although we may be in a time of limbo and may be anxious to have the future made clear for us, it is important that we allow God to guide and counsel us, in order that His will may be done, rather than us imposing our will upon Him. When I was looking to move from my last post, I received details on thirteen different parishes - but I only applied for this post because, after much prayer asking for God's guidance, I had a deep conviction and peace that this was were God wanted me to be. And that was confirmed when you invited me to be your Parish Priest.
Placing ourselves in God's hands is the key to living a complete and fulfilled life. It can be daunting and sometimes things don't turn out as we expect or hope for - but as time passes, we come to realise that God has our best interests at heart and is always leading us towards wholeness, to being who we are supposed to be. The time in between, the time of limbo, could be compared to the caterpillar which becomes a butterfly - but first must go through the 'limbo' of the chrysalis.
Many before us have struggled with limbo and many more will in the years to come. It's frustrating because we like to know, or at least have an expectation, of what the future holds and we do like to be in control! But my experience is that we are not always the best judge of what is right or good for us. The disciples found themselves in the same position when Jesus was arrested on Maundy Thursday, then tortured and killed on what we call Good Friday. They thought they had the future all sewn up; they were on the road to victory following behind their new King. And then it all fell apart - and so did they. They scattered in hid themselves away in fear of the same thing happening to them. They went through the 'limbo' of Good Friday and Easter Saturday, fearful of what the future held.
And then they discovered that God is in control. On Easter Day, God raised Jesus from the dead and that frightened and dispirited group of men and women, emerged from their chrysalis of fear and became the first members of what is now a global Church. They realised that through the mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection, all the barriers that existed between us and God have been swept away and we have all been granted unlimited access to Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forever!
And so, as we endure the 'limbo' times, let's remember that God is in control. His son, Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead on Easter Day, is alive and willing to be part of our lives. Let's trust him and get to know him a little better, so as to know his love, compassion and guiding hand whenever we need him.
With all good wishes,