If I had to choose one word to say how my year as a Fellow has shaped or changed me in some way, I would simply say perspective. If I had to choose one word to describe what the program was like as a whole, I would say rich.
It gave me perspective in the way I view work; it was rich in helping me not only create a network of professionals but also in helping me serve a company through my internship that I now hold dear to my heart and admire greatly.
It gave me perspective in the way I value community; it was incredibly rich in giving us the space to build a community that is deep and meaningful and gave me the gift of a group of friends that will continue to be a major part of my life going forward.
It gave me perspective in the way I see church; it was rich in partnering with churches who are full of members who work hard and work well in whatever vocational field they are in and who care about raising up young leaders to pour into the city they are a part of.
The Fellows Program has a vision of vocation that is unlike any I have experienced in the past. It shares a vision that is holistic and scriptural, and shares it in a way that really allows us to see the Lord's heart for work. After going through the program myself, I can’t imagine an atmosphere that could set up a variety of unique people to enter into a variety of unique workplaces better than the Fellows Program. This program draws out our passions. It reveals our gifts. And it helps provide opportunities. It teaches fellows that those things are good and essential to discovering our callings. And it teaches us that in whatever we pursue post-fellows, it will be good and glory-giving to the One who deserves it.
The Fellows Program calls its participants to a level of community that is extremely unique and as close to community as God created it to be that we can experience in a broken world. It really was an amazing experience to watch how close and connected we became as a group really quickly. We got to know each other’s stories more deeply than ever before; we encouraged one another; shared truth with one another; lived life with one another; and grew in our faith with one another. And I have no doubts that we will continue to do that even though the program has officially ended.
The Fellows program challenges us to reconsider the way we think about Church and the way we engage with the church we are a part of. Before I even made the trek to Nashville in August, I told the Board that I wanted to go to the Church that would be the most different from what I was used to, because I like adventure and I like a challenge. So, I was placed at St. George’s Episcopal Church-a tradition that I’m not sure I even knew existed before I applied (and look at me now: correcting people who don’t correctly call the parishioners “Episcopalian” and the church “Episcopal”). An adventure and challenge it was. I had never stood, kneeled, sat, kneeled, and stood more in a church service in my life. I had no idea what I was doing the first few weeks. However, attending St. George’s and working with the youth in the church (I taught 7th grade Sunday school and also coached the girl’s church basketball team) was by far one of the richest experiences of the year. It taught me to see Church as a place of community, a place of service, and a place of healing.
Some would say that those who choose to do a program like the Fellows Program after graduating are just cheating by putting off “real-life” for another year. And I would completely agree with them. But I’m glad I cheated. I’m glad that I lived only a pseudo real life for 9 months if it meant having the rich experience that I was able to have, to build the rich community I was able to build, to create a rich network that would have taken years without the program, and to mold a rich view, a view that Christ holds, of the Church. The program gave me the resources necessary to transition well and left an impact that will continue forming me years down the road.