“My heart overflows with noble words;
to the king I must speak the song I have made!”
What an amazing, exciting, and wonderfully grace-filled few days it’s been! I just got back from a candidacy retreat at my favorite place in the world — Camp Carol Joy Holling — and I can feel myself just bursting at the seams with gratitude and joy.
I got to meet many more members of the candidacy committee — the folks who walk alongside those who are considering a call to ministry and make the decision on whether they are a good fit for the role. I also met several other candidates further along in the journey, most at various stages of seminary. We heard several presentations around the inspiring theme of being “grounded in Grace,” talking about self-care and setting boundaries and sinking our roots deep into love. And I found myself fascinated just listening to the conversations going on around the table! To hear the ways that people talk about church and about evangelism and mission and stewardship and all of these different things was just totally enthralling to me.
However, by far the best part was seeing so many of my camp friends again! Truly, CJH has proven to be a tremendous breeding ground for new leaders in the church. I was overjoyed to see people I hadn’t seen in years, embarking on this same journey! And it was incredible to talk to them about our sense of call, and to share the stories that go along with it. I had no idea of the darkness and depth all our stories share, the earnest authenticity of our shared faith. Camp was such a focused ministry that — for me at least — it was hard to slow down and really see the people working beside you, to appreciate them as whole people. I feel like we got to do that this weekend. And although nostalgia was certainly part of it, I found that we didn’t spend nearly as much time reminiscing about the good ol’ days as we did talking about our experiences of church and ministry and the things we see in the future: ways to diversify the church, how to create points of entry for people outside our church culture, seeing people in their full humanity and not just as a missing demographic, the challenge of bivocational calls, etc.
And I felt such a deep sense of belonging, a fullness of life and of knowing down deep in the pit of my guts that this is where I’m meant to be. I’ve realized over the past year, running into camp friends again, that I always held myself a little apart, unworthy, less than my fellow counselors — always feeling like I was barely keeping myself together, let alone being some rockstar of ministry like they were. But I was wrong to feel that way — both about them and about myself — and it’s such a good feeling, so freeing, to have that barrier finally removed, to allow us all to just be on even footing, in this together. Because we are. Camp has always been such a place of strength and grace for me, and even after the incredible experience of four years of Peace Corps, camp is the place that I find my soul returning to. To find myself surrounded by these wonderful people again — especially treading the soil of camp again — was unspeakably awesome. I kept thinking of the words of Psalm 122:
“I rejoiced when I heard them say:
‘Let us go to God’s house!’
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.”
When talking about candidacy, Pastor Mike mentioned that I have a lot of really amazing colleagues to look forward to working with. Now I know definitively that that is most certainly true. So to all of you — Stephanie, Cara and Tyler, Bob and Paige, Matt, Sean and Ame, Josh and Rachel, Katie, Jeremy, Nathan, Kim, Mackenzie, Ryan, Brian, and everyone else — I have to say that I couldn’t be prouder or more deeply grateful to call you all friends, colleagues, and co-conspirators in Christ. I am SO excited for the road ahead, and so glad that we will be walking it together.
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into the Lord’s wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Peter 2:9-10