I stood on the steps of the chancel at St. George’s on Sunday and thought, I’m finally here. It had
been a long couple of months leading up to this moment of finally arriving. From stem to stern of the job application process, graduating from seminary and packing up and driving across the country, finding a place to live and finding my bearings in a new town, it has been a lot discernment and
preparation and uncertainty. I remember looking out on the far horizon towards -this August moment- back in May and feeling like it was too much to be surmounted, too much packing, too much driving, too many details to pin down. However, just as there is a difference between the impossible and the grueling, there is a difference between “I can do it” and “I can do it and it will not be pleasant”; transitions are hard–for a lot of reasons–but they are rarely fatal.
The feeling from the chancel of St. George’s (the chancel is basically the stage part of a church sanctuary) stayed with me all Sunday afternoon and into the start of this first week of work and it has come with a welcome realization: for first time in my adult life there is no anticipated end-point on the horizon in front of me. For my whole life, time has been chopped up into three year or four year or one year segments, shaped around Commission decisions or program calendars or degree checklists. I practiced always looking ahead to what’s next, anticipating what’s next: “when I’m finally a priest”, “when I graduate”, “when I move back to Virginia.” Now all of those things have happened and the task has shifted, no longer to live in the when/will/then, but to live in the am/here/now.
This kind of liminality–the onslaught of transitions, the state of impermanence–is what characterizes young adulthood. Whether it is a process of journeying or of arriving or of not-quite-knowing-how-to-settle, young adulthood is the work of seeking orientation to the people, the place, the work where you belong. Young adulthood is about discerning or starting a career, discovering yourself or finding yourself in a relationship or in a family, looking for where in the world–metaphorically or geographically–you feel the most at home.
The Bible holds all kinds of fodder for perspective in the work of young adulthood and belonging, from the take nothing with you as you move from town to town orientation of the apostles’ commissioning to the foxes have holes but the Son of Man has not place to rest his head to the in my Father’s House there are many rooms promise of the eternal life and even the exhortation in Jeremiah to seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, for in it’s welfare you will find yours. The Church’s ministry to young adults would do well to consider that although the greatest demographic in our membership are mid-to-late career individuals with disposable incomes and families, the protagonists of our Gospel narratives had no homes, no families, laid down their careers for their ministries, and were in their 20s and 30s. We are a settled Church but we are practicing an unsettled (and unsettling) religion.
I know the task for my own next phase is to learn how to settle just a bit, but I hope that I and we never think that unsettledness is something worth eradicating. Many 20- and 30-somethings live lives with a certain about of inextricable unsettledness built into their very structure and our ministries with and among young adults should not dismiss that fact. Ministry at its best happens when the Church comes up alongside the honest realities of the people in a mutual offering of what’s brought to the table. With young adults, I dare hope that the Church has a bit of settledness to share with young adults–some balm for the journey–and that young adults have some unsettledness to innoculate the Church with.