I’m not a student, but I have the jitters today. Some are anxiety-jitters, but most are excitement-jitters. We begin a new academic year at the University of Michigan today.
And I am very eager for this one!
Building community among students is pretty much my favorite thing in the whole world. In three states and in a variety locations and contexts, I’ve been doing this for ten years. Today marks the beginning of year eleven (and I’m just now realizing, the second decade — whoa).
For the last two years, sponsored by the Presbytery of Detroit, I’ve been working as a Community Chaplain. This is a rather unique role that we crafted together. While I am connected to a number of faith communities, my work is not housed solely within any one, particular church. Instead, I am commissioned to be a Chaplain within the wider community, especially among those who are not formally, religiously affiliated. This means that I meet with students from a variety of faith backgrounds or none at all. Sometimes, when they are seeking a faith community, I point them in a number of directions. Very often, we meet for coffee and talk about faith, spirituality, and what’s happening in their lives. I also meet with a variety of student groups (many are social action groups) and find ways to connect people to people, based upon their interests and skills.
I love this work.
And this year, within this larger vision, I’m starting something new as well. This year, in addition to meeting with many students one-on-one, and continuing to help out with other student communities (Canterbury House, in particular), I am also hoping to start a brand new student community.
In the spring, I was accepted into a new program of Montreat Camp and Conference Center in North Carolina. It’s called Young Adult Initiators. (Kind of a cheesy title, but it’s a good description!) This program seeks leaders who want to create new communities of young adults where they live.
In the winter, there was an application process that invited people to pitch ideas for what these new communities might look like, as well as what purposes they might serve. I pitched an idea to start an undergraduate community similar to Michigan Nones and Dones, and I was grateful to be accepted into the cohort. While some of the ideas are still to develop — I want students to co-create the vision community — this will be a discussion community where students can talk about faith, spirituality, and larger meaning over food (because shared meals are a very magical, spiritual practice for forming community!) Very likely, this community will meet at our house. We’ll probably begin with a monthly rhythm and then go from there.
Starting brand new communities…. this is also one of my very favorite things in the world. But no doubt, it’s hard work! There are challenges, and there’s a constant learning-curve. But it’s also exciting, and I know from experience, you can hardly anticipate how one thing might lead to another wonderful thing. It’s all a process.
So this week, I’m going to write about some of what I ponder when I begin new things. I’ll discuss frameworks and rhythms that I find to be helpful. I’ll also be honest about the pieces that are challenges or growing edges for me in this work.
And I would love to hear from you too. What new things are calling you? An opportunity, a practice, a mindset, a risk, a re-connection, a new question?
This post is part of a series this week. Feel free to read the other pieces also: