A Community Knit Together; 2nd Year Reflection
Earlier this semester, our school hosted 17 prospective students, all candidates for the Wait Fellowship, for interviews, and I realized I kept saying one phrase over and over to people in conversation: “We have a great community here!” I thought more and more about what I was saying and what that one word, community, really meant. It can be a loaded term, one that gets tossed around to talk about something very big and broad and deep. And if we use it too much to describe too many things, it can lose some of its meaning. But I sincerely meant what I was saying to these students, I just didn’t have a chance to tell them what I meant. So here is my best attempt to define what I mean by community.
We are a community that gathers together. Week in and week out we gather together for classes, lectures, weekly chapel, community lunch, and coffee hour. We worship, learn, and socialize side-by-side as we go through a given week in the life of the divinity school. And we do more than these regular school-based activities. We play intramurals (a lot actually!). We go out for a weekly dinner at Mi Pueblo. We play ultimate Frisbee on Fridays to let off steam at the end of the week. We hear each other preach and attend our friends’ churches. Aside from all the hustle and bustle of a week of activities within our school walls, we find ways to get outside and be with one another. Sure, we talk theology at any given place and any given time. But we do our best to do some things that give us a break from school and get to know each other outside of school.
We are a community that is there for one another. I can’t tell you how many events, occurrences, accidents, and unexpected happenings I have been a part of in the life of our community. I have seen friends ordained. I have heard the good news of an engagement or of new life in the family. This is not to say we have not also shared in the trials of life together. We share news of sickness or death that affects our lives. We remember some of the past events in our own lives that we are just now beginning to make sense of. We struggle with calling, with conscience, with theology, and all the bitter realities of life – including sickness, death, injustice and suffering – together. This makes divinity school more than a decision to attend graduate school. It is a decision that will impact almost every dimension of your life. That’s what makes having this community that surrounds you like a great cloud of witnesses so important to theological education.
At our worst, we can be a family community that is just like any other family. We can fight. We can say things that maybe we should have given more thought to before saying them. We mess up. We apologize and ask forgiveness. But at our best, we are like a body of broken bones, as Thomas Merton called the body of Christ, knit together by the grace of God. We are open about who we are, both in our strengths and our weaknesses. We are diverse in thought and theology and background. And we remain drawn together. That’s a little bit of what I mean when I say community.
Chris Hughes (pictured on left)