A mid-sized group of (mostly) Moravian college students gathered in the Tise Building at Laurel Ridge Camp and Conference Center in early November to prepare for a weekend of spiritual growth, reflection and discussion.
As the weekend began, we learned that we were sitting, not in the Sunrise Room as we had thought, but in a “basement,” full of trunks and forgotten bits of childhood (complete with a strange old lamp for atmosphere)—the basement of the parents of the church. As we grow older, we have begun to move out of our parents’ houses, but the church is still in the basement with a lot of junk. Some of that “junk” is useful, and some of it is ready to be let go. Over the weekend, we talked about which piece is which.
We talked about growing up and what we wanted to be when we were little. In those days, grownups would often ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up. We explored this at our retreat by using coloring books and worksheets to draw those memories and remind ourselves what was special about them, remembering that we wanted to be teachers or nurses or even the owner of a dragon! Thinking of those days reminded me of a very specific moment in my own childhood. A grownup asked me what I wanted to be, and then I asked him what he had wanted to be. He laughed and said, “I don’t know yet.”
It is confusing for an eight-year-old to hear that a grownup is not grown up, so it stuck. Later in life, it resonated. We are constantly growing and developing ideas about our world, and at the retreat we talked about how that matters to the church, both in our impact as we grow older and in the church’s own struggles to grow.
After that discussion, we opened up one of the three trunks in our “basement.” From that trunk we chose objects that represented memories for us: a wind chime made of colored glass, or a wooden leg, for example. Using these objects as symbols, we talked about the church we saw when we were little. A place of beauty, where people tell stories and dress up, a place of food and music: that is the church for a child.
But things packed away in trunks usually don’t fit anymore. We opened the second trunk to choose objects representing times when we felt like we did not fit in church—or church did not fit us.
Finally, we talked about our hopes for what the church might look like in the future, as it continues to grow and change. This was a particularly creative endeavor as we selected objects out of the third trunk in the basement to construct beautiful collage-style artwork that formed an image of hope for each of us.
We talked about the fact that the Moravian Church has problems and that we should not be afraid to talk about those problems. But more than that, we talked about how we should be talking about them and working on them in order to help the church to mature and grow as we do. In a liturgy at the end of the retreat that incorporated some of these ideas and memories, we prayed about them, and it resonated.
To old friends, it was so good to see you again. To new friends, I am so glad to have met you. And to our spiritual guides over this weekend, Ginny Tobiassen and Russ May, to Amy Gardin who set it all up, and to Becca Post-May who fed us: Thank you!
So, talk with the young adults in the church. Grow with them. And if you happen to see a strange, doll-shaped lamp the next time you are visiting Tise, remember the basement—and help us help the church to grow up!
Emily Ford is a senior at NC State University and a member of Kernersville Moravian Church.
From the January/February 2013 Moravian Magazine