“Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.” – John Muir, 1911
As the new Diaconal Intern here at St. Luke’s, I am honored to be welcomed into such a vibrant community — one that I look forward to working with and getting to know over the next year. In order to help this community better get to know me, I want to share a little bit of the journey that led me to it.
I was born into and raised as a member of St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Melbourne, Florida. Growing up, I was very active in my congregation. I helped to lead youth activities, I organized events for the young people in the church to take part in, and I was a member of the church band (playing very minimal keyboard). My home church was part of my family — I made some of my best friends there, and the rituals of attending services and Sunday School every week became the events by which I wound my clock.
When I graduated from high school I moved to Ohio to attend the Ohio State University. After moving to Columbus, I no longer had the support of the community I had grown up in, and, unfortunately, I was unable to find a community to be a part of. Ohio State felt too big, and I wasn’t able to make deep or meaningful connections with any of my classmates. I felt like I didn’t belong — both in the school and in the church. After two years of attending classes at OSU, I ended up taking a huge leap and transferring to the University of Montana in Missoula.
I had never been to Montana. In fact, I had never even heard of the city of Missoula. I had never spent time in the mountains or explored much of the wilderness. My entire life had been spent in the Eastern time zone. By transferring to a school on the other side of the country, I was separating myself from friends, family, and landscapes that I called home. I knew no one in the whole state of Montana, and I was taking a huge risk by even deciding to move there. I was terrified, but I was also excited. I felt like it was the place I needed to be it. It was the first time I ever felt called into something that felt right, but also scared me.
Missoula turned out to be the perfect place for me. It had a laid-back culture of acceptance that I had so desperately been looking for everywhere else. I was able to discover myself more fully as I wandered the forests and valleys of Montana’s many natural areas. I began to feel more comfortable in my own skin, and I was able to accept and admit to myself that I identify as queer. I would not have been able to do this without the community that I was able to find in Missoula.
Unlike my community in Florida, the one I was a part of in Montana did not revolve around religion or faith. I still found myself without a church to call home, though I did attend Christmas Eve services at a local Lutheran congregation every year. My community in Montana consisted of other students, like myself, who were deeply rooted in the wonder and majesty of God’s immense creation. For us, going to church meant retreating into the wilderness. God spoke to us in whispers as the wind rustled through the needles of the pines. We saw God’s glory in the waterfalls, glaciers, and creeks. We assembled around campfires to bask in God’s warming glow.
This community sustained me, and I learned to seek God by way of my connection to nature.