This Town Was Dreamed About

As we began our choir rehearsal, we flipped open to the Agnus Dei. In a bit more than a week, we’re going to perform Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. It’s a powerful, evocative piece.

When we began to sing the unison opening, I was suddenly brought back to a moment I experienced six years ago, and it was a lovely feeling.

At the beginning of 2013, I traveled from our home in Pasadena, California to Austin, Texas to spend two weeks in a doctoral seminar at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. This was a return; Austin was also home. We had lived there for five years before moving to Pasadena. I had studied at the seminary previously as well, and after I got my degree, I started working in campus ministry. So many meaningful, long-term relationships came from this period of time, including a big community of students.

During my visit to Austin, I spent a lot of time dreaming about what could be next… Ian was coming close to the end of a three-year postdoctoral position in Pasadena, and we were dreaming up where might move. At the top of our list was Ann Arbor, Michigan.

There was no tangible opportunity for me yet, but Ian thought he could do some significant work at the University of Michigan. I loved my time in Pasadena, but I knew I ultimately wanted to return to working with students. I thought… Wouldn’t Ann Arbor be a great place for that?

One particular day during my 2013 visit to Austin, I spent some time with a handful of former Texas students. Some still lived in Austin, and a couple more drove all the way from Houston so we could all have time together. And frankly, the whole day, I felt so much joy and gratitude to be gathered with them in person.

Then that night, I had some time to myself. I took a walk (goodness, you can do that in January in Texas) listening to music, and after a particular track first came on shuffle, I began to listen to it continuously. It was the Angus Dei movement of the Duruflé Requiem (my favorite Requiem).

And I began to dream about Ann Arbor, Michigan. I began to dream about doing this all over again… I began to imagine that there were other students I could come to know… I began to imagine building community among students in similar ways…

I remember all of this so vividly. I was walking along Guadalupe Street between 27th and 29th streets. I walked those long city blocks multiple times in a loop. I remember exactly which restaurants I passed, dreaming about students I might come to know in Ann Arbor, Michigan should we ever have an opportunity to move there. I remember feeling such love and possibility. I remember feeling like I was preparing myself for something.

This is a memory I’ve cherished for a long time in part because it’s also now true. We did get to move to Ann Arbor later that year. Those students have names now and are very dear to me. And with gratitude, I keep meeting more.

All of this came rushing back into my memory on Monday night when I sang another Agnus Dei with my Ann Arbor choir. It just felt in sync with that singing and dreaming. Right here in Ann Arbor.

Renee Roederer

3 thoughts on “This Town Was Dreamed About

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