I want to start this editorial by thanking everyone who reached out to me in response to my editorial last week. Whether it was by letter, email, texts or in person, the support and love that I’ve felt was worth the risk of vulnerability. I’m so grateful for this community and how we lift each other up through our best and worst times.
As I’m nearing the end of my college career (less than five weeks now), I’m beginning to think more about the different types of faith community Goshen has given me over the years.
I grew up in Goshen, and lived in the same, old and beautiful house by the river until I was 18 and left to move onto Goshen’s campus for my first year in college.
Throughout my life, I attended College Mennonite Church. This was a wonderful church community to be raised in. The support I felt by those I knew, and to be honest, by many that I didn’t, was a constant in my life that I really needed.
My youth group especially was a home away from home, with friends who are more like siblings and are still in my life today. Our Mennonite Youth Fellowship (MYF) gave me the opportunity to learn about God, Christianity and faith alongside people who had similar questions as I did. Because of this time in MYF, I decided to be baptized the summer before I came to college.
When I left for college, I knew my routine of attending church twice a week would change, but I wasn’t aware exactly how drastically it would.
During my freshman year, I started attending Sunday service at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship and participating in their college-age Sunday school class as much as I could. It was a great space where I found connection and freedom to question my faith.
But it wasn’t until I worked at Camp Friedenswald the summer after my first year of college that my faith shifted. I realized I felt most connected to God through nature, through time alone and with self-reflection through writing. After a summer of not attending any formal church services, I came back my sophomore year less willing to attend church each Sunday.
Since then, I have not been a regular at either Berkey or College Mennonite, but I have found others ways to nurture my relationship with God. I have found community in my friends. I have more doubts, questions and certainly don’t know what I’m doing, but just like everything else, faith is about the journey.
I believe in treating others the way I would want to be treated, loving everyone regardless of gender, class, sexual orientation or race, and I believe in pacifism.
Just because I don’t regularly attend a church service doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for the love and support church communities have shown me. For that, I will always be grateful. But I’m also thankful for the love and support of my friends, who make it so much harder for me to say goodbye.
Church can provide community, but other settings can invite spiritual growth too. Knowing yourself and surrounding yourself with people who nurture you and support your key beliefs is valuable.
I encourage each of you to think about who supports you and how you can further your own faith and beliefs, whatever they are. Reach out to others and lean on the different communities you’re a part of.