Keynote Speaker: Rev. Jill L. Snodgrass, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland
Presentation: The Spiritual Struggle of Living in the Liminal
Over a century ago, French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep developed the term liminality, from the Latin word limen meaning threshold, through his research on rites and rituals. Liminality is a transition between states – a period of being “betwixt and between.” Liminality involves leaving the known world behind without a sense of certainty regarding the world to come. We can enter liminal stages voluntarily, but we may also be thrust into them and left wondering if, when, or how they will end.
Wisdom from most religious traditions includes stories and metaphors of liminality. In Judaism, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a liminal time – a period when the fates of the righteous and the wicked are undecided. The Buddha left the comfort of his home, psychologically and geographically, and entered the liminal in search of liberation. He remained without a home until his last breath, living in the in-between, the place of the dharma. In the Christian tradition, John the Baptist and Jesus experienced liminality during their times of solitude in the wilderness. They each encountered God and self in ways that altered their understandings and reconfigured their trajectories.
Liminal times and spaces are often uncomfortable and, for some, result in spiritual struggle. For adherents of the Abrahamic traditions, liminality can entail feeling as though God is absent or hidden. But the “undoing, dissolution, [and] decomposition” inherent to liminality are quite often “accompanied by processes of growth, transformation, and the reformulation of old elements in new patterns” (Turner, 1967, p. 99). COVID-19 catapulted most of us, as individuals and a nation, into the liminal. While many have rushed to return to normal, others have embraced the liminality of the pandemic and are seeking growth and change.
Through the three plenary sessions, we will explore liminality from a trans- and inter-disciplinary perspective, drawing on the lived experiences of 18 individuals, to uncover how liminality can be experienced as a spiritual struggle and a spiritual gift, and how you can serve as a witness and guide to clients, patients, and others navigating the liminal.