“Hopeful for the future” was the feel in the air Thursday night as my grad school cohort and professors met in person for the first time as a group in over a year.
A few of them have met in the little red brick building for decades. I mean if you didn’t move to Seattle for grad school, there was no online option. And then Covid turned the world upside down. TSS went virtual for the first time, and I got to attend the school of my dreams. I’d always said in another life I would have lived in Seattle, graduated from TSS, did some work at The Dan Allender Center, and that Psychology and/or Theology would have been my life.
But, I didn’t get that life. I grew up in the South and ended up in the business and networking world. So as you can imagine – standing in downtown Seattle – with these amazing people – who have hearts for the pursuit of God – and other people – at a school that has profoundly impacted my life over the years – specifically in both my grief and spiritual journey – I am both humbled and oh so grateful.
I’d always heard about the deep connections made among the students and professors and all the good things the graduates go out in the world and do. And, in 2020, when they could no longer connect up close and personal, except through a computer screen (you see – they were in Covid lockdown longer than we were in the South), a profound grief shook many of them to the core.
I didn’t experience the grief some of these did because, well, I wasn’t in the building. I’d never been in the building until tonight. And to gather in the neighborhood community garden to share a meal and share conversation and laugh and see the Twinkle in people’s eyes and the genuine smiles and welcoming presence…wow…it’s been awhile since I’ve had church like that. I think Dr. Dwight would agree.
And in the space of those two hours we sat among beautiful sunflowers🌻, cherry tomato plants and green, lush grass.
We ate amazing Thai food and heard the cries of seagulls claiming their piece of balcony on the high-rise behind us.
As we began sharing some roundtable discussion about where last year has taken us on our grief journey, we caught whiffs of maryjane in the air nearby while a rat🐀 scurried through the garden.
That’s when Beth looked at me and said, “oh yeah Ginger, I forgot to mention, Seattle has some serious rats.” I am mortified and look at Anna and say, “nope, I’m good. I’m headed back East soon. No rats for me.” But being that Anna is quick witted – and from Texas – she grins at me and says, “No, that’s cool, go back South to the cockroaches.” I laugh. She got me. She’s right. 🤣
As I look around the circle, I smile as I am actually able to sit next to my Harley Driving, street kid ministry and Professor, Dr Ron who struggled greatly with the technology because Dammit! He wants in-your-face relationship!
Then we have our professor Dr KJ who always showed up with a Zoom background that made us feel like she was streaming in from Hogswart. And considering she taught a class called Spirituality and the Arts: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it was just apropos.
Then as I began the drive back to my summer digs, I see the beautiful ferris wheel and downtown begin to light up at the edge of the water at sunset. Seattle’s glorious summer is almost over. Fall will be beautiful too, and then the rain and gray will eventually take over much of the area. Many find that season a welcome break and opportunity for self care. Others wish for summer again.
Tonight, after spending time with this cohort, I realized we have a few amazing generations working together – listening to each other and learning from each other – who are gonna do amazing things to bring about change and equality and justice and equity to broken systems.
There’s a pressing and a shaking going on. Churches and businesses and education systems and governments will be required to change to be able to adapt to a new era that’s coming quicker than we realize.
And there are many who follow Jesus and aren’t ashamed to say it, but they’re just not tolerating the bad parts of religion anymore. In fact, they’re rejecting it. They’re passionate about loving their neighbor and they take it very seriously.
And I’m one of them. These days I’m a creative, nomadic, free spirit who doesn’t meet a stranger and who wants to make a difference in her corner of the world. That difference isn’t about the money and who has the most success, but rather a deep desire to be a steady, honest, non-judgmental source of authentic connection.
Fellow students and professors, tonight was one of the highlights of my summer stay in the PNW, and I’m so honored and thankful to be studying this program with y’all.
And I too am hopeful for the future.