When you leave for college everything is new, people are new, experiences are new, at times you feel alone in a see of faces. No one knows you and you know no one. Eventually you find a group of people who become a core group of friends. For me this was the chapel community. People who came weekly to worship, came to Bible studies, people who met in Chris Roseland's office for Consilium (one of those weird groups who talk about call and vocation), people who were love for one another. After spending time with these people I found myself considering them as family. Not just in the mushy gushy they are my brothers and sisters in Christ, but these are people who care about me, who love me for me, who pick me up, hold me accountable, and have my best interest at heart and I the same to them.
For three years now, many of the people I consider friends/family have come from the chapel community. We are a small and close knit community. We get together and cry with one another, we care for one another, and we love one another. Our safe space is the Chapel. I would be willing to bet each of us have spent a night or two or three in that chapel pleading with God in prayer, crying, singing, playing an instrument, venting, just being, or seeking some sort of peace. That has been a place that we share with each other, a beautiful place where we can see God, feel God, and hear God in our midst.
On Friday night someone took spray paint to the inside of our home. They spray painted vulgar things on the table where we share the bread and pass the cup. The wrote horrible things where we sit together and pray together. They painted upside down crosses next to the stained glass window where we see the beauty of the sun shinning through. They wounded not only our home, but our hearts.
I for one have used that space in the quiet of the night to cry, to think, to just be. I have held others who had a bad night in those pews. I've shared the cup with many different people around that table. I've admired the beauty of the simplicity of the space. And when I heard of the vandalism to that space I was heart broken. I was angry. I wanted to know who did it and why they did it?
So many in our family were hurt this weekend by the things written. It was weird going back into the chapel. It was refreshing to see how hard the maintenance crew worked to get it cleaned up and looking like it did. But it still cuts deep because some of our family members don't feel safe, they don't feel secure, they don't feel joy, or love, or anything that they felt before because their sacred space was violated.
So as we came together today to worship and reclaim our sanctuary, our home, our place of hope and love, we did so not out of righteousness, not out of anger, but out of love for one another. We proclaimed that love has the last word and that we would not leave that place looking for vengeance, holding anger, or being hateful. We proclaimed that our community, our family, is indeed built on love. Love of God and love of one another. That love holds us together, not a building, that love feeds each one of us, not the music from the piano, that the love of God is in that place graffiti or not.
I'm proud of my family, for coming together and worshiping in a beautiful way. Sharing the bread and passing the cup around the table, singing loud and proud, making beautiful artwork along the sidewalk to the chapel that proclaims love, writing on paper that covered the table our prayers for this community and what this family means to each of us. We are a very diverse group of people, but we came together today bound by love for God and one another and that is what is important. I think the chapel is different now, it doesn't look different, but it does feel different. Not that it feels empty, but that love surrounds it and flows forth from it.
Unfortunately for now it has to be locked at night, meaning people are unable to access their safe place, their place to just be and dwell in God's presence, but this will not break us. We will continue to be a family of love. We will continue to support one another, we will continue to open our doors and arms to anyone, we will continue being family for each other. If anything I think this awful event has brought us closer to one another. Only time will tell what will come of this all, if we will ever find out who did this, if we will ever have answers...maybe we don't need the answers, maybe we just need each other.
This family has been there for me through the ups and downs over the last three years, and I realized that today as I tried to articulate what the chapel means to me...I am hurt, I am disappointed that someone would do that to the space we see as sacred and peaceful, but I am lifted up by a community, a family, that simply wants to love everyone. I am filled with hope because we don't seek revenge, I am filled with joy that we were able to be in that chapel today, loving and supporting one another, crying together, laughing together, praying together, and being love together.
At a later point I will post pictures of our sidewalk art, communion table cover of paper, and the candles we lit in prayer.
Until then, keep our family, our chapel community, in prayer as we continue to move forward and be love on campus, even to those who may have done this to our community. For we are called to love all people and that is something we are good at.
Peace be within you,