When I first arrived at the Episcopal Campus Ministry (ECM) almost four and a half years ago, I was welcomed with open arms. I did not know then that ECM would come to be a huge part of my life as an NC State student, that I would end up living in an intentional Christian community, and I certainly did not expect that some of the most important lessons that I would learn during my time at NC State would come to me through ECM. Learning more about who I am as Christian likely never even entered into my mind as I began this part of my journey as a newly-minted freshman. But yet, here I sit, tapping away at a keyboard, and I cannot help but notice that I have undergone quite a spiritual and personal transformation over these years.
I remember some of the first events that I attended… I remember that first Sunday service, when Eliza met up with me to walk with me to the Cheshire House. Soon thereafter, I was on a beach retreat with this group of wonderful people whom I had only just met. We went to the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry; I do not remember why I signed up to go. But I am very glad I did; there, my eyes were opened there to the world of social justice. This is probably the moment where my understanding of Christianity transformed from being just some deeply personal but highly abstract philosophical concept to an understanding of “living the Faith.”
In Washington DC, during the Spring Break of that first year, we went to work with the homeless population there. I remember realizing that that homeless man, the one that everybody just walks by, is named Oscar and has a story to tell. That if I look into the face of poverty and destitution, I can see the face of Jesus.
I cannot possibly recount every step of the journey that I have made, the journey that I am still making, and the journey that I will make. During my Sophomore year, I lived with two others, Sam Kenny and Eliza Marth in an intentional community, with the immense support and guidance of Mother Deborah and the Advisory Board. I began to learn there what it means to live in Christian community. Living intentionally, with a commitment to two other people is fundamentally different from sharing a structure with a couple of people for the sake of convenience. Many of us have taken Communion for years, since we were children. It is a ritual, something that we do to remember and to be with Jesus, who died for us and our salvation. But I think that my experience in the intentional community really helped to understand how much more than that this communion is; we as Christians live in a community, and Jesus has a presence for and in every person. For me, Holy Communion is not just something to do in church, but it is a way of life. I know that I have a lot of work to do, but my experience in the intentional community set a foundation for this very different type of understanding of what it means to live with others intentionally, and the difference, as Bishop Curry preached, between sharing a house and sharing a home.
The Episcopal Campus Ministry has turned out to be a major part of my life and learning at NC State. It has helped me to find a balance between my academic obligations and being grounded as a person, and has helped me to keep things in perspective – it is very easy, as a student, to get so caught up in the daily cycle of crawling out of bed, going to class, taking exams, procrastinating, doing work, and getting to bed really late. It is easy in this environment to forget who I am, and that I am on a spiritual journey as well. Whether it is the Sunday service, the Wednesday meetings, or other events it is really important to be able to go to church to recenter, take a step back, remember that there is a bigger world out there, and to be present with others.
As the semester winds down, with only a few weeks until I graduate from NC State, I do not know where life will lead me next; that’s alright, I’m not too worried. The group that welcomed me to ECM four and a half years ago has mostly moved on, and a wonderful group of people has since joined us. I have really enjoyed my time with ECM, sharing in community with so many special people that I really love. It has been my honor and privilege to be an ECMer, and I leave knowing that I have been a part of something that is truly special.