over the past two weeks, my spirit kept telling me, "be faithful right where you are.” this message made sense. after a blissful, restful, and entrepreneurial summer, it was time to recalibrate into Dean Mode and prepare for a new academic year. moreover, after 17 months of working remotely, it was time to re-enter the workplace. i wasn’t excited. i was anxious. i am still anxious. i haven’t been around a lot of people since March 2020, and somewhere in my introverted spirit, i enjoyed this way of living and working. but, it’s time to begin gathering myself and to make these changes. it was time to recommit myself to my work, to showing up, and to being physically present to the community that i serve.
this week, this message finally began to make sense as i learned why i had to be faithful right where i’ve been planted. on Thursday night, we held our annual parting ceremony. this is rite of passage where our incoming students and their families say their goodbyes, and when families leave campus after their orientation events. every year, it’s an emotional time. i get weepy watching parents and children cry, and my heart goes out to younger siblings who cling to their departing older sister for dear life. it all takes me back to when my older sister went off to Agnes Scott College, and when my parents pulled off after dropping me off at Clark Atlanta. it is a really important moment, and so, we ritualize it in order to mark it, remember it, and to make it more tender.
after the parting ceremony, an incoming student made a beeline straight to me. she told me that she’d been following me on Instagram, and my sermon clips made her want to apply to Spelman. now that she has been admitted, she shared that, “you’re the reason why i’m here.”
today, we kicked off our Chapel year with an informal outdoor Gospel brunch. new students were invited to come grab a safe continental brunch, meet Chapel staff, and connect with student ministry leaders. seating was placed six feet apart, we handed out Sisters Chapel masks and hand sanitizers, and a live DJ set the vibes. we had a great time getting to hang with new students from all over the country. i even preached an impromptu sermon. in the end, a new student approached me to share that she’d heard me speak on a Zoom for prospective students last year. tearfully, she expressed how much it meant to see a woman who looks like her in my position as a spiritual leader. she remembered things that i said, which confirmed that she was supposed to come to Spelman. she even registered to take my class this semester.
hear me. i’m not advising anyone to forego safety protocol in order to make an impact on peoples’ lives. my anxiety about re-entering physical spaces is directly correlated to rising COVID numbers, including the Delta variant. it also has to do with being around crowds and being “on” as an introvert. but, in this season of change and emergence, i’m feeling called to anchor myself in a practical approach to getting “back out there.” after all, there is work to be done. there are people who are searching for some light, and whenever i/you/we show up to our work, we help to illuminate the path. prayerfully. hopefully.
here are a few of my guiding principles for this season of emergence.
mask up. pull out the double mask and face shield, if you must. keep the hand sanitizer handy. get tested. elbow and fist bump. wave from afar. all of this and that, to the point of obnoxious.
don’t forfeit ease.
this year, we have moved Chapel to begin at 1:00 in the afternoon. this way, our students can spend the morning resting up from whatever social activities they engaged on Saturday, and the staff can take the morning to get ourselves mentally and spiritually prepared. we all have the evenings open to unwind and prepare for Monday.
one of the major lessons from this last year, is that life can happen so quickly. having a dynamic set of tools for remaining grounded in essential. so, in addition to the time change, we are now planning bi-monthly spiritual wellness retreats for our community to gain tools (i.e. practices, rituals, texts, etc.) for everyday growth, grounding, meaning-making, and communing with the Spirit. we’ve planned retreats that will focus on breathing, mysticism, yoga, and more. the hope is that our community will grow into a worshipping and learning community, while building the resilience to remain rooted while in the throes of change.
go with the flow.
today, i shared with the students that we are more committed to growth than we are to a plan. i invited them to stay in conversation about what was working and what could be improved. i’ve coached my staff on remaining open to how these plans shift and evolve, and on how to invite our community to become conversation partners through service and volunteerism.
when i know that i’m about to be in a potentially draining or anxiety-inducing situation, i take some deep breaths and i do an exercise called “5 things.” i look around to identify:
5 things i can see around me.
4 things i can touch around me.
3 things i can hear around me.
2 things i can smell around me.
1 thing i can taste.
this exercise brings me into the present and helps me to calm down. these are a few quiet moments with myself before my primary purpose is to serve and connect with others. i learned in a training last year, and it has been invaluable to me in this season. i recommend you try it!
i hope some of this is helpful. i think that a part of “being faithful where you are” means that we sow seeds, knowing that some will flourish and others will not. yet, it’s important not to lose yourself in your sowing. we deserve wellness, even as we work.
it might be sowing season now.
but, when the harvest comes, you will need to be present and whole to enjoy it.
have a blessed week, y’all.