Summer goodbyes

By on July 20, 2015

Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal is located a few blocks down the hill from McGill University. As a result, our pews always hold a scattering of students and, as the cathedral’s ministry to students and young adults falls under my portfolio, it’s my job to get to know them. I have a really great job.

I’ve had this job for four years now. And, this summer, the last of students from my first year left Montreal-and she outlasted many folks who arrived in the intervening years. Students are a transient bunch, arriving in our midst and staying for a year or two-or, if I’m lucky, four-before moving on to the next stage in their lives.

This sending is an important part of young adult ministry. We are an important stop on the journey to Christian maturity. In many cases, we are the first church a student chooses for themselves; the first church where they are not primarily someone’s daughter or grandson. We don’t want to be the last. So we make space for the gifts and ideas and passions of these new members as quickly as we can, inviting them into the community at large and the community of young adults in particular.

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Which means, every summer, we say goodbye to people we can’t quite imagine being without, people who we could count on to ask the hard question or break the silence or crack the terrible joke or do the dirty job. Every summer, we say goodbye to people we have grown to love.

This makes summer a challenging time for this ministry. The wounds are still fresh, the edges still ragged around the gaps people left behind. Our numbers are lower than during the school year, our ambitions smaller, our gatherings shorter. And I can’t help but worry a little-has our luck run out? Is this what it will be like all the time now? Was last year our last good year?

 

These fears are unfounded, of course. But more than that, they are unfaithful. These fears are rooted in my desire to have a “successful” ministry for which I can take credit, a ministry with robust numbers and lots of activity. And so summer is an important time for my own spiritual well-being. Summer reminds me that this ministry is but a small part of God’s much bigger mission. It does not exist to stroke my ego or justify my salary. It exists to serve those God sends to us and then, in the fullness of our time together, to send them on with thanksgiving and blessing. “Success” is a question not of numbers but of depth: how well do we welcome? How well do we love? How well do we send?

And then, after a summer of goodbyes and worries and wonderings, autumn comes. And every autumn, God leads new students through our doors and the community re-forms itself, accommodating the gifts and quirks of these new members and learning how to get along without those who now minister in other places. Every autumn, we say hello to people we know we will grow to love…and we will one day say goodbye to.

We welcome. We love. We send. And we trust that, in God’s great mercy, that will be enough.

 

Editor’s Note: The Rev. Rhonda Waters will resume her column in September.

Author

  • Rhonda Waters

    The Rev. Rhonda Waters is incumbent of the Church of the Ascension, diocese of Ottawa.

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