By Amy McCreath
I hate June. Last week, I stood with the other MIT chaplains on the side of the street the Class of 2009 will march along on their way to Killian Courtyard, where they will patiently listen to a string of dignitaries, and even more patiently file one-by-one (all 2,500 of them!) onto the platform to receive their diplomas. We chaplains share a few Dunkin’ Donuts while we wait for the parade, then we wave and cheer for the students we know as they walk past us. “Good job, Kari!” “Way to go, Andre!” I am smiling and waving, joking with my colleagues, tossing back munchkins. But I’ll tell you a secret: it feels like the apocalypse.
I promise you that I am thrilled for the graduates. They have worked so hard, overcome enormous obstacles, grown tremendously as people, set lofty goals and achieved them. They will leave here with amazing skills and most of them will make the world a better place through their vocations as scientists and engineers. Most of those who participated in our ministry here will bless congregations elsewhere with their leadership, their faith, their integrity. It’s all good.
But they are leaving. And I will miss them so very much. I am so thankful for my time in community with them. Those who participated in our ministry here each added a particular gift to it. As they march by this morning, I remember moments, emails, stories, performances. There goes the beautiful, brilliant physicist, who discovered a love for Christian mysticism through a lunch-time discussion for women. There goes the one with whom I co-led a program for lbgt students on how to respond to hate speech, which turned out to be one of the most tender, spiritual conversations I’ve ever experienced. There goes the one who sent me an email after Lessons and Carols one Advent, saying he’d stayed up all night after the service reading the Gospel of Matthew, and for the first time he thought this story might have something to do with his life. There goes the one who anonymously paid for two other students who wanted to go on retreat but couldn’t afford it. Goodbye, everyone.
For campus ministers, the summer feels like an extended version of that period between the Ascension and Pentecost; we stand and watch as the students we knew and loved for several years are taken up in a swirl of black academic gowns. We have the promise of something to come -- the Class of 2013! Now it is for us to spend the whole summer trusting that God will do a new thing, will send souls who will want to learn, pray, share stories, serve others, and be a community in Christ here in this place. It is a very long Ascensiontide.
I’ve been through this cycle seven times already. Every June, there is a moment when I think, “Why don’t I find a ministry that doesn’t require recruiting and training up an entirely new group of leaders every year? Why don’t I find a community where people don’t come and go constantly?” When I was a child, I had a book called “Amy Loves Goodbyes.” It wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now.
But I’m still here. And although it’s emotionally draining, I think it’s actually been a blessing to go through this cycle again and again. I’ve learned something about what ministry is for. We are called to fish for people. We haul them in, not for ourselves, not for the fulfillment of our little projects or the ordering of our fractures lives, but for Christ. And if the New Testament tells us anything about following Christ, it is that it means being on the road constantly. It is on the road where we bless and are blessed.
It’s catch and release, catch and release.
So the Class of 2009 walks out of Killian Court today and into their futures. Those who were part of our ministry here will walk on to be Christ for other people on other shores. And I, too, will be on the road again, waiting and watching for the Holy Spirit to blow together a new community which will be a new blessing in ways I can’t predict or control.
The Rev. Amy McCreath is the Episcopal chaplain and coordinator of the Technology and Culture Forum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a member of the Council of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission