By Emma-Claire Martin
“🖖🏻 “For someone who longs for a community of his own/ Who’s with his camera, alone?” 📸”
As a senior in high school, my list of college requirements covered available majors, regional temperature, and proximity to a city, but made no mention of religious life. Seeking out a Christian community wasn’t on my radar, and I didn’t even know American University was Methodist affiliated until I was moved into my freshman dorm. How do I reconcile that with the fact that just this week I spent a total of 17 hours in church and church-related activities, not counting the six hours spent in religious studies classes and the time spent reading theology books for fun?
The transition from high school to college can be a time when young adults lose whatever remnants of religious commitment they had sustained in youth group meetings and a few weeks at summer camp, and I struggle to articulate exactly why that didn’t happen to me. There was nothing particularly inspiring or sustainable about my interest in joining a faith community, and yet here I am. Church went from something I might want to do in between the rest of my schedule to the centerpiece around which the rest of my schedule now orbits. I schedule my classes around my various Methodist commitments.
So how do I make the connection between the freshman vaguely interested in church to the junior who attends multiple services a week while also working and interning in a church? I found a family.
That word is often used to describe college communities, but a family isn’t just made up of siblings. Families span across all ages, and that’s why church has made my college experience more than just an academic one. I get to spend mornings with toddlers, going from holding them as infants to having conversations with them as they run around the daycare room. I’ve been embraced by older members of the MMUMC congregation who provide warm meals and free Bibles. I’ve built connections with many adults that I now see as mentors, and I hope to provide mentorship to the middle and high school students I interact with through MYF programs. All this is shared with my fellow campus ministry students and the long list of UMSA alumni that are more like distant cousins than strangers.
I say all this in declaration of “family” as the church’s most important function. MMUMC and the UMSA have taught me to be a person of radical hospitality and active love not from the pulpit, but from the seemingly endless stream of snacks and conversation that has defined by college career thus far.