Seventy-five years ago, American lives changed suddenly and radically. Japan declared war on the United States and attacked bases in the Pacific: Pearl Harbor and Manila. Within the day our country changed from neutral and uninvolved to a nation at war. The date December 7th, 1941 is still remembered for how it shocked and changed our nation.
The day of the Pearl Harbor attack was a “liminal moment” in our shared history. We changed. One moment we were bystanders in the European war, and the next our country was part of a global conflict. It was as if we had stepped through a door of history. The old way of thinking didn’t make sense anymore.
The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word for threshold… the stone or wood bump below a door. Crossing the threshold is a “liminal” action — entering or leaving a house. The threshold is not part of the room inside, nor is it part of the outside. It is between; it marks the transition. (By the way, the word “subliminal” means below the threshold of perception, and therefore unnoticed.)
In 1941 President Roosevelt had the job of bringing the nation across the threshold into war. He gave speeches, worked with key national leaders, proposed a resolution to Congress, issued Executive Orders and made public appearances. All were part of an effort to bring the nation together in a coordinated effort to oppose the Japanese military, and the German military…
Roosevelt knew that liminal moments were stressful. They had potential for bringing the nation together and also for tearing it apart. He also knew that transition was also a time of opportunity. Old rivalries were set aside, attention was turned to what really mattered. Building on this temporary solidarity, he got the nation ready for the long haul. How can we learn from Roosevelt when considering the “liminal moments” of our world? We have two transitions currently in progress. First, our nation will go from a Democratic Party led administration to a Republican Party led one, with new priorities and values. And second, our congregation is on its way to a literal threshold crossing, into a new location and building.
A year and a half ago you hired me as Developmental Minister to help you transition to a new sacred space. How will we use this transition to bring our congregation to a new place, physically, emotionally and spiritually? That is our threshold challenge. And can we, as a community, also find a new understanding of ourselves within our community and nation? How can we use this transition to become the religious organization southern Hampton Roads needs today? Can we listen to our many voices and perhaps grow into a new way of thinking? That’s the challenge we face in the year ahead.
December 7, 1941 was a day of infamy. May we pause on this 75th anniversary to remember those who died fighting fascism and for our freedoms. Pause in thanks and pause to consider our own duty.
Sunday’s sermon addresses the seventh and concluding principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Purposes and Principles. “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” Our new theme for December is “Cosmos,” so come and hear some spacey music and enjoy community and consider our Unitarian Universalist principles… in our newly decorated sanctuary! Tonight (Friday) you are invited to help with the Hanging of the Greens at UCN! Come and be a part of it all! And tune up your singing voice for our “Dark Night Coffeehouse” on December 9th!
I also want to mention a community event beyond UCN. On December 13th, local movie houses will be showing a live broadcast of Allegiance, starring George Takei. This Broadway show tells the story of Japanese immigrants and American citizens who were forced into concentration camps at the start of WWII. I studied the effects of the Japanese removal on California communities when I was in seminary, so I’m taking the night and going to see the show! I will be at the Regal at MacArthur, maybe I’ll see you there. http://allegiancemusical.com/
I love you,
PS: With so many new folks, let’s remember to wear our name tags!