by Michelle Lewis, student reporter

The day started with a different tone. It wasn’t the anxiousness and anxiety of the 1st day, but something else. Chapel was somber, in opposition to the tone of joy and expectation we experienced on day one. I surmise that this potentially is because it’s the last day and the ministers, musicians, and lay people are mentally preparing to return home and are processing how their varied ministries will be different. The morning Chapel session was one that was especially poignant. During the session, faculty prayed for the congregations they were partnered with. I later had more than one of the ministers tell me what a blessing it was to be prayed for, to be cared for, when ultimately you are the one who is usually providing the care.

After Chapel, Dr. Troeger seamlessly wove the work of the week with the stories of the congregations, and comments from the plenary sessions. Such care and attention to detail is something we can all strive toward, in the ministries in our communities, and in the world.

In our final session, after lunch, participants had the opportunity to engage the question of what we would like to share with the wider church about the Why’s and the How’s of the projects, the week spent away from congregations, family and friends, and the various ministries to which we are called. The answers crossed a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from approaching the work with confidence, to understanding the mission and theology of a particular faith community, and encompassed the complexities that engaging in new ways of worshipping and knowing God often bring to the table. In short, there are no easy answers. However, I think that most agree that if we can find a way to, “show people Jesus,” and find a way to, “experience yourself and those around you as beloved,” all else with time will fall into place.

The evening and the conference ended with a banquet at the graduate club where we were encouraged to participate in the sacrament of communion, through the breaking of bread, sharing of wine, prayers, and a meal. As we said our “goodbye’s” and, “see you later’s” to one another, the somber tone of the morning had dissipated, and in its place was hope. A hope of the future of religion, with the knowledge that creative, skillful, and capable are working to make their faith communities, and the world a better place.