For three weeks in July, I and 14 other new US-2 missionaries were trained by an awesome team at the beautiful Stony Point Center in New York. Training was a wonderful experience, full of new friendships, a raising consciousness of social issues, a deepening spirituality, growing excitement for service, some challenges, some tears, and occasional exhaustion. It was way too amazing overall to try to communicate it fully here, but I will share some highlights.
Our sessions on social issues reaffirmed for me both my need to serve, and my desire to do it with the United Methodist Church. It gave me hope to hear racism, sexism, economic injustice, and mass incarceration recognized as seriously sinful structural problems. And it gave me hope to be learning with a group of young people who respected the seriousness of these problems and accepted with hope the challenge to defeat them.
We were introduced to certain spiritual practices by a US-2 alumn who also explained to us the importance of using spiritual practices in order to keep the energy and balance to “make it for the long haul.” She referred to the successful use of these spiritual practices as “sufficient Sabbath,” or “staying close to the Source.” This aspect of training was challenging for me, but very much needed.
US-2s, training team, visiting presenters– all of them were awesome. The US-2s were all loving to one another, and also inspiringly driven to better understand and address the social issues that we learned about, to confront privilege, to challenge themselves, to take the risk and do the hard work of participating in God’s mission. I also felt blessed to hear all the very different ways that God has called each of us, and to have my mind and heart opened more to the different ways that God works in people’s lives. The training team was just super cool: supportive, challenging, engaging, and willing to be our friends.
I used to hear “itineration” mostly refer to the process of pastors in the UMC being assigned to churches and moved to new churches occasionally. But when I talk about it, I mean the process of missionaries visiting and speaking at churches to build relationships and raise support. After the first week of training, we all went down to NYC and were distributed to churches there to speak. I and two of my classmates attended Church of the Village, which had a passionate and welcoming and socially conscious congregation. The next weekend, we were all sent up to upstate New York for our first real itineration. I spoke at the lovely Rotterdam UMC, and then got to hang out at First UMC Schenectady, where I was inspired by the congregation’s energy and sense of community and radical hospitality. Watch for a possible post on my feelings about itineration, which are too many to fit into a paragraph.
Stony Point Center
We trained at an interfaith retreat center a few hours north of NYC. It was a peaceful, holy place, and a perfect environment both for getting to know the rest of my class and for getting much-needed sabbath between heavy sessions. The staff of the center live in intentional interfaith community, are involved in organizing an ministry with marginalized neighbors, and grow much of their own food!
Simply feeling reminded of why I chose this program by the beautiful power of change and justice fueled by faith. Realizing that, for me, mission is not just a place where my concern for social issues and my love of the Church intersect. Living my faith and working for justice are one and the same.