As I write this blog, the last couple weeks are fresh on my mind with the arrival of our Nashville Fellows! On Saturday, August 20th, we kicked off the Fellows' year with a BBQ. On the heels of this, we headed out Sunday afternoon, August 21st, for our Opening Retreat with the Fellows. We spent three days playing games, eating together, hiking, talking to one another, exploring Franklin for a night, listening to music, singing, reading the Bible together, and even plotting the capture of a mouse (affectionately referred to as Dewey) - to no avail. We did all these things, sometimes consciously and many times unconsciously, in an effort to cultivate genuine community with each other. 

We have all been preparing for this nine-month journey together by reading Henri Nouwen's article "From Solitude to Community to Ministry" , Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book Life Together, and Jean Vanier's book From Brokenness to Community. All three resources touch on a foundational reality of healthy community: that the greatest gift we have to offer one another is not our togetherness, but our brokenness. What a freeing and beautiful truth! When I realize that God in his grace works through my human struggles to bind us together in community, I am able to be more myself, less conscious of performing for others but rather identifying with others in a shared confession of weakness. There is a sense of relief that washes over me. This relief would be short-lived, however, if all in the community were not committed to building each other up through vulnerability and prayer. 

It is because we are prone to look out for our own interest instead of the interest of others that we also created a covenant as a Fellows class while on our Opening Retreat. Just to give you a glimpse... in a year of intentional community, we are agreeing to hold each other up through prayer, encouragement, accountability, being curious together, and having fun. We are choosing to offer to each other our brokenness, and in response, we are choosing to accept and love each other. We are choosing to pray for one another and celebrate Christ's image in each other.

We ask for your prayers as well, as we walk in community with each other and you this year. We are thankful for the larger community that comes around our Fellows each year, and we look forward to doing life together with you this year!