End of the Year Reflection | All Things Grow
In order to tell you about my year at St. Hilda’s house and the ways I have been transformed, I feel that a good deal of context about myself as a Christian must first be shared. Bear with me on this journey; I promise I will get to my year in New Haven in due time.
When I was in the 4th grade, I decided that I was going to Hell. I had stolen a copy for Junie B. Jones from the Scholastic Book Fair on accident; I just walked out with it, but the shame of keeping the book afterwards felt like too much to confess to the priest at our local Catholic parish. Of course, I knew that by avoiding confession I was avoiding God, but it felt acceptable as long as no one had to know about my petty theft. In my little ten-year-old brain, the exchange made sense: one secret book and peace of mind for eternal damnation. All things considered, it makes sense that once I figured out I was queer, I felt extra sure of my early decision to stop trying to live my life within the confines of the Church and did my best to push myself away from God.
All throughout middle school and high school, I did my best to ignore God. I coasted my way through years of Catholic school, scoffing at compulsory religion classes, skipping mass, and acting with unfortunate derision towards my religious classmates. When it came time to start looking for colleges, I actively crossed off any schools with religious association from my list, regardless of academics. Even in these years of atheism, the Holy Spirit moved through my life, guiding me towards my eventual alma mater, Kenyon College. If you run in Episcopal circles, you might recognize Kenyon as the site of the former Episcopal Bexley Hall seminary. I, as a questionable Catholic, had no idea of the connection until I saw a small church on campus upon arriving for my first year. Kenyon has greatly changed since its years as a seminary, and has long since become a secular institution, but the brick and mortar church still remains on campus. Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me, and in September of my senior year, I chose to attend my first Eucharist at the Church of the Holy Spirit. This choice altered the course of my post-grad life, pulling me closer to God and ultimately into my year at St. Hilda’s House.
After I became an active member of the campus ministry at Kenyon, and with the support of my priest, Rachel Kessler, I decided to apply to the Episcopal Service Corps. I pursued all other post-grad plans halfheartedly, with the knowledge that a year of service was truly what I needed after I left Kenyon. I ultimately got several offers from sites around the country, but chose to accept to do a year of service at St. Hilda’s House. I was attracted to the program’s spiritual rigor, quality site placements, and intimate relationship with its sponsoring parish. I am thankful to God for every day that I have spent as a member of this program.
This year has allowed me to explore the idea of myself as a religious person in the context of a house full of other young Christians. Being in a community of faith has felt incredibly healing in light of all the years I spent convinced of God’s (at best) ambivalence and (at worst) antipathy. This year, I have felt God’s love and light through my housemates, my work site, and my parish. I have few words to express the transformative power of this year of service. I know that I walk away from this program equipped with the tools to pray, love, work, and live more fully. I now have more words with which to express how I am feeling, to resolve conflict, and to express my needs. I leave my worksite with more patience, empathy, and flexibility.
Most of all, I leave this house equipped with the knowledge of God’s love. It is a gift without parallel.
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