Beloved Community in Our College Students

by Rev. David Annett, Cranston Memorial

At the beginning of January, I was lucky enough to accompany seven of the Presbytery’s College-aged students to the Montreat College Conference in North Carolina. This three-day retreat is held annually by the Montreat Conference center in the short window of time after the holidays and before most classes start again.

For college students, it is that liminal space of reflection about the previous half-year and anticipation and anxiety of what lies ahead. It was very fitting indeed that the theme of this year’s conference was “What’s Next?” The students spent time together hearing keynote presentations, learning in workshops, and worshiping God with this theme in mind. It was quite moving to be present at a gathering of young people who were all facing very similar questions and anxieties because of their stage in life, and to hear speakers and pastors speak directly into their doubt, their struggles, their hopes, and their questions about what the next steps of their journey might bring.

How do you answer the question of “What are you going to do next year when you graduate?” that is constantly tossed out by family, friends, church members, who all mean well, but are churning up unspoken fears that come from not knowing the next step to take? What are you supposed to do when one semester, or one year into your chosen degree, the degree you always knew you wanted to pursue, you feel a tug toward something else? How are you supposed to master Chemistry, when you are failing at the interconnected chemistry of friendships and living situations that college brings? Where is God when I am feeling broken, scared, alone?

These are very vulnerable questions to ask of yourself, let alone utter out loud to others. But time after time during the trip, these young adults modeled what a Beloved Community should be. They listened, they affirmed, they laughed, they cried, they supported one another. They did not find all the answers to the hard questions that they were asking during this trip, but what they did find was each other. A community that they never lost, but that was rekindled with time and faith together in the mountains of North Carolina. What’s Next? We can’t be sure, but we can be sure of the community that will accompany us as we find out. Thanks to these young adults for helping us to remember that blessing from our God.