With May approaching, the season of graduations and goodbyes is upon us. I currently work with the Episcopal Student Center college ministry at the University of Texas. This semester I have been meeting with the seniors each week to discuss transition. In talking with my students about how to leave well, I have been reminded of what I learned from leaving Life Together four years ago.
When I moved to Boston, I was a questioning Catholic eager to live in community and learn more about the Church. What I found in Life Together was hope for what the Church could be, a place for authenticity, vulnerability, and accountability. I found a School of Love, a model of transformation through shared worship, meals, and work. I left college feeling called to be part of the Church, yet I was still unsure if I would find other young people along that path. Life Together is where I first found those people. So after eleven months of transformation, it was hard to say goodbye. I had chosen to move to Texas to be with my future husband. Yet I felt so much grief at leaving this place of transformation behind, leaving this community, leaving such deep relationships. I wasn’t sure I would ever be in such a community again.
When I first moved to Texas, I pictured a version of the Episcopal Church I had seen in the Diocese of Massachusetts. What I found was something quite different and at first that transition was difficult. After a year and a half working as a case manager with homeless adults in Austin, I returned to church work as the program coordinator for the Episcopal Student Center college ministry. When I started working at the Episcopal Student Center, I realized I had so much to learn from my students. While this was still different than Life Together, I saw another faithful expression of Episcopal identity in a quite different context. At the Student Center, I am constantly inspired by my students faithfulness, love of liturgy, and willingness to dive into deep questions. In the Northeast, I often felt like the radical act was being a member of a church at all. Here in Texas, the radical act seems to be choosing a liberal, liturgical church instead of the popular non-denominational megachurches. Watching my students navigate this landscape has taught me in new ways about what it means to be Episcopalian. Again in this community, I have found a place of authenticity where shared worship, meals, and work leads to transformation. Another expression of the School of Love.
It is here in Texas at the Episcopal Student Center that I was officially received into the Episcopal Church, a journey that began at my site placement St. Chrysostom's in Quincy where I first took the classes for reception. This summer our journey continues as my husband and I will be moving to another Christian community, this time for me to start seminary. What I’ve learned from leaving Life Together, what I’ve tried to pass on to my students, is that communities of transformation are all around. If we are lucky enough, we will be part of a few such communities in our lifetime. My time in Life Together felt too short in many ways, but the invitation to be part of the School of Love continues. And in whatever context I am called to next, I will still seek the School of Love.