This past weekend, the other Nashville Fellows and I had the pleasure of attending the Fellows National Conference hosted by the McLean and Falls Church Fellows Programs in Washington, D.C. We were excited to reconnect with some of the other Fellows whom we had met at the regional conference in the Fall (shout out to our great friends the Charlotte Fellows Program!), and we were eager to do some exploring together in our nation’s capital!
On Thursday morning we embarked on our 12-hour journey in a 14-passenger van, and we arrived early enough that evening to get plenty of sleep for our adventures the following day. On Friday, while our fearless director, Shane, attended meetings with other current and prospective program directors, we spent the whole day seeing the best of the city. First, we passed several powerful and heavy hours at the Holocaust Museum. Then we walked the Mall, had lunch, went up into the old Post Office tower for an excellent 360° view of the city, and took some token “selfies” in front of the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.
Friday night marked the beginning of the conference, and we arrived at McLean Presbyterian Church ready to eat and ready to learn! We reconnected with old friends and acquaintances, sat with new friends at dinner, and heard from our main speaker, Kate Harris, and several other former Fellows. Saturday morning and evening bore much the same schedule with an afternoon off in between during which we drove around beautiful Georgetown and got some frozen custard in the city.
The main topics discussed by our keynote speakers included commitment to time and place, coherence in all aspects of our lives, a life lived joyfully in the present, and the importance of fidelity in faithful friendship and mentorship. I was inspired by the call to consistency of faith and self in all situations. It is true of the Fellows in each of the programs nationwide that we are in a time of waiting, decisions, and transition. In less than a month, our Fellows year will be over, and each of us will step into whatever God has provided for us next. This prospect is both exciting and terrifying.
In the Nashville program alone, some of us have jobs lined up already, and some of us don’t. Some of us know where we are going to live one month from now, and some of us don’t. Some of us know what long-term career and personal goals we would like to accomplish, and some of us are still searching. All of us know that we must trust our Father and Advocate in Heaven to worry about these things for us, but all of us tend to worry about what the future might hold. Because of this, the encouragement this weekend about living faithfully in the present was an aptly timed reminder.
Many speakers also referred to the “pick and stick” method, an idea that says that choosing a place and a community to be loyal to and “stick” with-- though not a popular idea in our modern thrill-seeking culture-- will cultivate deeper relationships, a stronger commitment to the good of our town or city, and a more authentic sense of engagement and purpose in God’s story of redemption right where we are. This advice was especially reassuring for me because I have made the decision to “stick” with Nashville for a long time. Because of the relationships I have formed this year and the shallow roots that I have put down, I joyfully choose to stay faithful to this, my new home, and pour back into future Fellows here as well as advocate for the good of the city as a whole.
We left the conference on Sunday morning and used much of our return journey to discuss what we had learned and how the Spirit has led each of us this year. Some of us were profoundly moved and motivated by what was said this weekend, and others weren’t quite as impressed. And that’s okay! I’m grateful that we could discuss these things transparently and without judgment- a testament to the unique kind of friendships formed in just 9 months of commitment and fidelity to this program and to each other. The way we’ve grown together this year gives me great hope and excitement for how we will continue to grow together and in new relationships as well!
As we drove back into town on Sunday evening, I was surprised by the happiness and comfort that flooded my heart as the Nashville skyline loomed ahead of us. As I said, I have chosen this city to be my home. Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, my hometown, are wonderful, but I am thrilled to return HERE, to invest HERE, to love this city, for better or for worse. In the same way, Spencer, Emily, Hallerin, Jeana, Stewart, Becca, and I, led by Shane, have chosen to enter into and remain faithful to this Fellows bond that will endure even after the program ends. We are the Inaugural Nashville Fellows, and although we never could have predicted it, we have become a family. God is creative and wonderfully unpredictable, and time and distance will eventually separate some of us, but I am confident that this family will remain of one heart: committed to the flourishing of the whole and always spurring each other on through difficulties. This we will do until the day that our King Jesus returns to redeem this world, when we will worship and work in perfect harmony, together with all the saints, in glory, forever. Hallelujah!!