One warm May night more than five years ago, I sat around with my closest friends talking into the very small hours. We were graduating the next day. For the most part, we talked about how not to, how we could not possibly end this and go our separate ways. We talked about we could live together, intentionally, working as and when we needed to. Furthering our dreams. We planned. This could actually happen, we said. We can really do this. We can buy a house. We can pool our money for a property.
And we could have. All of it could actually have happened, down to the goat cropping grass in the lawn. But it didn't.
I don't doubt that I would have been happier in the intervening years, between 2003 and now, possibly excluding the last, when I have been well enough. I would have by neccesity grown closer to, and not further from, most of the friends that college gave me. I probably wouldn't have been fired twice and had half a dozen jobs in thee years, because I wouldn't have taken jobs I didn't want or need. I wouldn't live a thousand miles away from my family, a fate which seems more and more ambiguous. And above all else, a lonely soul might have lived, for a charmed longer while, a less supremely isolated life.
I would have lived in constant daily contact with other human beings, a fate which seems to me now so remote I can scarcely imagine it.
My solace, the only sense that I can make of this grand not-happening, this supremely pangy non-event, is that it wasn't meant to be. By that I mean that it would have been good, but it would have been a limited good. It would have been a good for me. It might even have been a good for all the rest of us. But I don't think it would have been good for everyone. It wouldn't have been good for France and China and Connecticut and New Jersey and D.C and Tennessee, all the places we eventually went. It wouldn't have been good for Minnesota.
And it wouldn't have been good for Gethsemane. I mean that. I cannot, fortunately I think, see whatever good that I actually do, but I can see that I am here. And that if I were not doing good, I would not be here, and would not be feeling good myself. There certainly have been plenty of opportunities for me to leave, and I certainly have considered them in my three years now, of living here.
But all of this is silly. I only mean that I was afraid that night, talking. I was afraid of everything that was about to end, all the best days of my-little-life-so-far running out like sand. I was afraid of my promise and my indirection and all the opportunities I'd missed so far. I was afraid, not of the future that would happen, whatever that was, but the future that might not happen, all the wants that would not come true, of the things I might not be able to pick up again.
I was not wrong to fear those things. The years since have seen several of them realized. And my motives, all our motives, were pure and good and based on the good we already had. There was nothing wrong with any of that.
But it was not entirely in our hands. It was certainly not in mine. And just because something was not wrong, was not in error, does not mean there is nothing to be learned. And I've learned that I am not my own, not my joy, not my sorrow, not my solace and not my grief. My treasures and time and talents are not mine to hold, anymore than the people I know are my possessions.
We, right now, are choosing our chuch. We are choosing what will happen to Gethsemane. Our future is no more certain now that mine was five years ago. We too face dissolution, not to put too fine a point on it.
What I'm writing to tell you is that you do not need to be afraid. This is a grand and august church, with a far longer history and with a far broader reach than my small group of friends. But no part of it is our posession. It is God's. We are stewards not only of the things we've spent the last month talking aboout, our resources and talents and opportunities.
Rather, we are stewards of this church, of this garden, of this idea of Gethsemane. Each and every one of us.
So it is not enough that we choose how to keep the doors open. It is not enough that we decide how to keep money flowing in and out of our accounts. It is not enough to consider our survival, anymore than it was enough for my friends and I to consider how to stay together.
Rather we must ask how we can be worthy of survival. God has far more options than Gethsemane. And we are only as good to God as we are good to this community. We must think more broadly, as I might have considered the good my friends and I could create wherever we decided to go. The work with the Drake Hotel is an excellent start, but it can only be a start.
Gethsemane Episcopal has a fine tradition. But it does not have a tradition of preserving its tradition. Rather it has a history of being part of Minneapolis, of being tethered to a hospital and an orphanage and Indian communities, of hosting a school and youth programs and counseling centers.
We confuse these things, I think, to say that these things were only possible when we were larger. Rather, I say that we were only larger because we said that these things were possible.
And then we did them.
That's why I decided to stay, about two years ago, when I got the chance to possibly go live with my friends again. Because I already see these things happening at Gethsemane, and I want to see them done.