Monday, July 27, 2015

Campus Ministry in July:
Pro Tips from Gregory the Great & Stephen's Colbeard

Campus ministry in the summer. The good life, I am told. Peace. Quiet. Unlimited parking spaces. Of course, it is good. At the same time, summer is challenging. Challenging because if you didn't get into campus ministry to be around students, you probably got some very bad career advice along the way. Note: there aren't very many students on campus in the summer.

Thankfully, if you are a campus minister in the summer, there is still good work to do. In the summer, there is finally time to give full attention to the key maintenance issues you've been punting since March. There are renovations to oversee and bylaws to review and, in our happy case, a 100th anniversary celebration to organize with the help of alumni, supporters, and friends. Lots of phone calls, preparations, and partnerships. Way back in June, we conducted a search process and welcomed a new office coordinator for whom the summer is an ideal time of introduction to the ministry.

There are endless weeds to pull.

In fact, summer ends up being a great time to regularly connect with the handful of students still in town. This year, Rebekah and I hosted weekly meals at hour home on Wednesdays, which have blessed family and students alike; the quality of conversation afforded by the summer is often unlike anything we'll have come fall.

Summer is likewise a great time to reconnect with colleagues across the country, whose lives and ministries breathe courage and vision into my own. This year, I had the privilege of accompanying the newly appointed prior of the St. Anselm Community at Lambeth Palace - a dear friend - on a weeklong series of meetings with visionary leaders with a heart for Jesus and young adults in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.

But, mostly, all of these only leave me waiting patiently - or impatiently - for the eventual gathering of the community without whom even the best summer ideas will never grow into anything else.

In a recent podcast, Stephen Colbert waxed philosophical on his network-necessary hiatus as he waits to begin his Late Show in the fall. Talking with his newly appointed band leader Jon Batiste - a jazz improv phenom - Colbert compared his own comedic improv art with that of the improv musician. The problem, Colbert explains, is that the instrument he plays is an audience, and the sound of his instrument is laughter. Which means right now he can do plenty of work - and there's lots to be done - but he can't really practice. "Until you're with an audience, you're not playing your instrument. And so I don't necessarily know how to make the great leap to a new show until I'm sitting there with the people who matter the most to me..." And later, "it's all just theology - it's not religion."

Welcome to campus ministry in the summer.

So I've grown my Colbeard, and shaved it off. Like Colbert, I've gone off the grid, only to come back with an eager zeal just a couple months too soon. I'll be okay. I'll wait. Hit the beach. Continue praying and preparing. I'll set out each day to be present to God in the moment before me. I'll enjoy the ease of parking. And, for all the reasons Colbert names, I still won't be ready in the fall. But I'll be ready to not be ready. I'll learn to wait on the Lord.

Here's a passage from Gregory the Great that came as a great consolation and joy the other day:
Summer is hard for me physically, and has brought about a long interruption in my explanations of the gospel. But because I've been silent my love has not ceased. I'm only saying what you all know within yourselves. Our expression of love is often hindered by other concerns; it remains undiminished in our hearts even though our actions do not show it. When the sun is covered with clouds we on earth can't see it, but it is still there in the sky. It is the same with love: it produces energy within us even if it does not reveal itself outwardly in our activities. But it is time now for me to speak again. Your enthusiasm is stirring me as I see you eagerly awaiting my words (Be Friends of God, 59).
I don't flatter myself that the students of St. Francis House are "eagerly awaiting my words," but God knows I am awaiting - and eagerly - the life and conversations we'll share as the people of God in this place; God's people reassembled, together, as we follow the risen Christ.

Um, Stephen, you forgot the "monkey tail."

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