I always get excited driving to Mt. Morris in Wautoma, Wis.; not just because of the beauty Mt. Morris has to offer but because of the people I am going to meet upon my arrival. The weekend of March 1-3, 2013 was no different.
I traveled west on Hwy 21 from Oshkosh, Wis. with a car full of four young adults. As we got further from the cities and closer to Mt. Morris I started to feel my excitement building. I thought about the laughter to be had, the songs to be sung and the inside jokes that only this special group will understand and fully appreciate.
The idea of a young adult retreat had been in my mind for several years. Each year, as more young adults age out of camp and can no longer return as campers, the discussions begin: “We need to have a weekend sometime so we can stay in touch.” Some might say a retreat is simply so old friends can catch up and reminisce on old times, but I believe it is much more than that.
Being a young adult in this modern age is a great blessing. We spend our childhood and adolescence growing up meeting camp friends for one week each summer. Our time together is short but meaningful and we maintain those friendships via texting, Facebook and phone calls for the rest of the year. Through my eyes, these are the same relationships my parents had in their youth when they would keep in touch through letters and phone calls. We’re just able to send several letters per day.
It is clear to me that the true strength of my friendships was created in those weeklong get-togethers each summer. I believe it is what we are doing at events like church camp that not only provide the opportunity for these friendships to form but more importantly the depths of these friendships to grow. I was hoping this weekend’s retreat would hold true to that theory.
As I pulled into the beautiful scenery of Mt. Morris I was soon surrounded by 26 young adults from across Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. The room shared my excitement to gather together as we sing the Moravian traditional table grace for supper. Like most gatherings of these sorts, the weekend started with small talk of recent news and for some, the stories of proposals which have occurred since our last meetings.
It was not long into the weekend when our program leader, the Rev. Brian Dixon began to challenge us with our theme idea: ìAt first, Faith teaches us how to live. Then, it shows us what to live for. And, finally it calls us to love and serve those we live with.î I thought to myself, “Now we’re talking!”
In my experience, amidst the moments of laughter and story sharing, a good program allows for the opportunity for my inner most life, my deeper emotions and thoughts to start to come to the surface.
I found myself wanting to dig deeper and share my thoughts and ideas with my friends because it is in those moments that the true strength of any friendship is built. This can be a very delicate moment that may need to be handled with caution, but I believe we as Moravians thrive in these moments. In all things love!
By having a retreat like this and gathering together we create a safe and caring arena to open ourselves up a little more. I believe this is something hard to find in today’s modern society, but it is something we as maturing young adults are in dire need of when we are living away from a Moravian church.
We discussed over the weekend what the Moravian Church might look like in the future. Would we still gather together each Sunday morning and sing four hymns, read scripture, have a children’s time and hear the Pastor preach? I hope so! I myself seem to hold strongly to many of the traditions I grew up with in the Moravian Church. However, our current education system teaches us to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. In our conversation some new ideas were shared but the most important part I got out of the conversation was the group’s idea of how faith has shaped us.
Stories were shared of times when we gathered together as friends in a community of faith where we felt ourselves develop into better people. This idea leads to the importance of why we gather: to worship God, to embrace each other and better ourselves through our time together — sounds a lot like Sunday mornings. To me that’s the importance of these gatherings and the importance of Sunday morning worship; to prepare us to be better Christians when we step outside our walls.
Lately, many of the church reports and meetings that I have been involved with discuss why there are few young adults in the church. Congregations are asking themselves “what can we do to get them to stay here after they are confirmed or after they leave for college?” I encourage these conversations; there is great importance for young adults to be in the pew on Sunday morning or joining church groups during the week. But maybe there are different questions that churches should be asking themselves. Maybe the questions should be, “where are the young adults in this world? What are they doing?”
For many young adults we pack up our bags and head out into the greater world. Know that are not leaving the church! We are taking the church with us wherever God has led us. We are sharing Christ through the lives that we live in our young careers and through years of higher education. We still pray, we still sing, we still help those people around us, because the foundation we were built upon is strong.
So don’t wait for us at the church door on Sunday morning, because we may not be there every week. Seek us out and encourage us to continue the work we are doing with the people we are meeting. Tell us that you love us and you will always be there when we come home to visit. To be able to come home, to return to the community of faith that has built us, is very important and has deep meaning. If you care to venture along and rekindle the energy you had when you were 23 feel free to visit us and see the church we are living in. A church without walls — God’s greater world. Check out Moravian Church Without Walls on line to see more about what young Moravians are working on. https://sites.google.com/site/moraviancww/Home
A weekend retreat is very important for any group of people. When we gather together whether it is on Sunday morning, at church camp or a weekend retreat, God is in the midst. This weekend was a wonderful opportunity for young adults to gather together from the vastly different areas of the Midwest. Our time spent together this weekend was filled with dirt cake, broom ball, games, stories and further growth in our journey of faith. I want to thank the MWCEC and the Cobweb Communication Committee for sponsoring and planning this year’s Young Adult Retreat. We look forward to next year’s Young Adult Retreat currently planned for February 21-23, 2014 at Mt. Morris.
Gregory Behrend from Green Bay, Wis., is Cobweb Committee Director with the Western District.