Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Discoveries and Discernment: How Are We Called to Connect Right Here?

Lesley Krauland
My sister pleaded, “Come on, Les, come to my birthday party at The Black Cat!” So, I left rural Maryland around 8 p.m. and drove into the heart and soul of D.C. The Black Cat is a nightclub in a formerly gritty neighborhood that has experienced a transformation, becoming a hot spot of restaurants, culture, and nightlife. I searched for parking, and a sketchy-looking guy told me I could park in his lot down an alley off 14th. I asked, “Is this really a safe place to park?” He nodded yes, of course. I decided to trust him.

As I walked down 14th Street, I saw people eating at cafes or waiting to get in restaurants. It was a beautiful fall evening, and I thought, “Wow, there is a whole world happening down here that I don’t know about when I am asleep in my suburban home!” I reflected upon how my middle-aged life had become so different from the vibe on the street. I don’t think I was having a moment of middle-aged crisis; yet I recognized I was a stranger to this large group of young adults.

At the nightclub, I had some unexpected conversations with several young people. Some faced real challenges: finding meaningful work, relationship challenges, financial strains. I talked with a waiter, a twenty-something young man who works the night shift and has a baby on the way.

It occurred to me that many of these folks were probably NOT waking up in a few hours to go to church. Who are they, and what are they doing? It looked like the harvest was plentiful; [but] where are the laborers? (Luke 10:2) I began to think that here was a mission!

All young adults have a story and desire to belong to a community of caring and supportive folks. But they need a way to connect that fits into their lifestyle and makes sense to them. I had allowed the busyness of my life to get in the way of knowing anything about them. Sure, I have excuses, like those who told Jesus that they could not follow him until they buried their father or said goodbye to their family (Luke 9:59-62).

Jesus tells his disciples to “go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” (Mark 1:38-39) We don’t need to go far; we just have to drive a few miles, or take an afternoon nap and set out at midnight, to find a people who are searching for something -- and for someone -- who is Jesus, from whom they are disconnected. We can share with them what we found as we have searched – the kingdom of God is here now; Jesus Christ lives right now, within each of us; and through the great mystery of God’s love our lives are empowered to be and do great things, imaginable and unimaginable.

There are at least ten parishes with programs to serve this population. This is great! And in concert with Bishop Mariann’s vision for EDOW, we now have a Young Adult Missioner, Jason Evans, whose work is dedicated to connecting with the young adult population. We have tools in place to reach out and connect to this relatively unseen-in-church-Sunday-morning group of people. We need laborers to work the field and bring in the harvest!

My adventure to The Black Cat turned out to be more than a birthday party. It was a discovery. Taking a risk to do something extraordinary right in my own hometown, like going to a dance party, may be the doorway to an unexpected education about an unforeseen, exciting, and necessary ministry.

Lesley Krauland is a parishioner at St. Patrick's and a member of the Diocesan Retreat Committee.