It’s been a strange couple of years, hasn’t it? Stressful, confusing, exhausting, isolating. There have certainly been moments of peace and beauty along the way, but the overall picture is a bit harrowing. There is so much suffering, so much bad news, so much heartbreak. It’s been difficult to focus on much anything—I find myself with a sense of tunnel vision, focusing solely on managing the day at hand and not trying to accomplish incredible feats above and beyond. I’m too tired to read books, something I once loved to do. I’m too distracted to settle into a routine, which might grant me a sense of balance amidst the chaos of our current times. I’ve been focused on survival, as many of us have.
That’s not to say I haven’t taken on any projects over the past two years. I’ve practiced my wildflower identification and hiked many miles. I’ve celebrated friends who have learned how to bake bread and found creative ways of connecting. Many of you have done really incredible projects during the pandemic, and I’m so grateful to see those posts and hear those stories. It’s the brightness at the end of the long, dim tunnel.
It was an incredible joy to see some of that brightness in person when the confirmation class came on retreat at my new home, Massanetta Springs! I loved welcoming these wonderful teenagers (who are all somehow taller than me since the last time I hung out with them in 2020?!). During the retreat, they asked wonderful questions and planned meaningful worship. I’d forgotten how loud they are, but was thrilled to see their creativity and thoughtfulness has continued to grow with their stature.
For a moment, that sense of feeling lost deep in a tunnel lifted. With COVID numbers having dropped locally and a round of negative test results before the retreat, we could eat, and laugh, and sing together, unmasked. It was great to spend this time in community, and also a poignant reminder that there is still goodness in our world.
The youth were asked to share their spiritual gifts as part of their self-designed closing worship service at the end of the retreat. I was thrilled to hear them name the things they treasure about themselves, and I had a list of my own ready: insightfulness, confidence, steadiness, strength, intelligence, support for one another, energy, enthusiasm, compassion, care, kindness, perceptiveness, creativity, humor… yes, there’s one for each member of the confirmation class, even the ones who weren’t able to be with us at Massanetta. No matter what their statements of faith eventually do or don’t say, I am grateful to the community you have provided for these young people, and for the ways they take part in it. I am thankful to be part of our community.
At the end of the weekend, we spent some time exploring the Blue Ridge Tunnel, a retired railroad corridor turned park through the rolling landscape near Afton. The thoughtfulness and joy continued on this adventure, as we explored the depths of the tunnel itself and the winding trail leading to it. I waited at the tunnel entrance for the group to return, and was struck as I heard their laughter and conversations as they emerged from that closed-in space. While there aren’t any guarantees about war, pandemic, and other crises in the season ahead, it felt good to be together and step out of that tunnel into the warm sunshine and the excellent community.
A beloved former GPPC Youth Group leader and pastoral intern, Colleen is now Program Director at Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center. We hope to feature a reflection from church friends and family in this space each week of Lent. If you would like to participate, please flag down Alfred Walker or email firstname.lastname@example.org .