Making [The] House a Home
It was a familiar feeling, wandering the aisles of Target with a mound of stuff cresting the top of the cart, looking for I'm not quite sure what. Having just moved to Fredericksburg last month, I've done my fair share of nesting already: picking out my new shower curtain (an intricate royal blue pattern with gold accents), new pink and sage plastic cups (nothing beats a plastic cup, we all know this), and consecrating my new kitchen with dinner after dinner. It's hard work, bent like a horseshoe over wood and iron day after day, cranking a cheap hex key assembling your living room and bedroom, but it's worth it to make an empty apartment/condo/house like a home.
It's always such a treasured moment when you realize your work has paid off, the moment of recognition that this is the place you come home to now. Now as a priest, I find myself wondering what it would take for church to elicit that same feeling for who are its members. As a youth minister, it felt crucial to me--more important than catechism or bible study--that my middle and high schoolers came to understand church as a place they could call home. Nesting as church looked like plastering the youth room walls with pictures from meetings and mission trips and art we'd made together. Nesting looked like breaking the taboo of the nave and chancel as somewhere you had to sit still and be quiet and so we played games, hide and seek and sardines and Commando Church. We made certain to hang out on the patio, in the parish hall, in the library, even on the roof so make sure they knew that the whole campus was theirs. It was a sweet project to undergo together and no surprise, it worked just as well on me as it did on them.
Now as a campus and young adult minister charged with the care of our shared space, I'm finding myself digging back into the work of nesting that characterized the month of July in my own space. It's easy to say that simple things like snacks and art supplies--pineapple and orange-mango Spindrift and Circus Animal cookies and sharpies and glitter libraries and honeysuckle scented hand soap make a place feel comfortable, but the work of nesting goes further than furnishings. The safe familiarity of a place is also an inward decision to commit to a place, to hallow it with repeated presence. A new pair of shoes isn't my pair of shoes until they've been walked in for a few weeks.
I'm reminded that our Gospel protagonists were commissioned by Jesus to go from town to town, taking nothing with them and accepting only the volunteered hospitality of the people who they encountered. I'm reminded that of Jesus himself it was said "the foxes have their holes, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." I don't know a young adult that hasn't moved a half-dozen times in their twenties and for reasons that are in-built into the nature of young adulthood: short leases, shifting roommates, relocation for grad school or job prospects, but thank God that not many of us are called to biblical forms of apostolic itineracy, even if the shape of our lives recreate it for a period of time. I wonder if it's not the Church at its best to offer itself as the waystation for people who are in between homes, if we might only make enough space and permission for the invitation to be accepted.