March 13 marks the 2-year anniversary of the unexpected and terrible end to Act Five’s first year. Covid was rampaging the world and leaders, governments, and organizations needed to act swiftly, and without clear understanding of the oncoming virus or its ramifications, Redeemer, alongside the rest of the province, made the tough call to send our students home for two weeks. We all know how that went. Within a few days, two weeks became the rest of the school year. I’ll never forget the dreaded zoom call we had with our students to tell them the news.
“You will not be moving back to Blake Street”.
I can still hear the way Jon’s voice sounded as he said it.
The past two years have been challenging for all of us as we’ve navigated the changing tides of this pandemic. Yet as I’ve watched the time unfold – welcoming new students, running a program in the height of lockdowns and changing safety measures, and now this year welcoming our third group of students who had their final two years of high school wrought with instability and (for many) isolation, I cannot help but think of the unique impact of this whole thing on our first cohort of students. It has been particularly difficult for Act Five’s original twelve.
Act Five had become their home, their primary community, and in many ways, their peers had felt like family. They had experienced so much together – a canoe trip, life in Hamilton, a month in Zambia, worked through community conflict, retreats and winter camping, meals together, caring for a house together, placements, countless key moments of growth, laughter, vulnerability, and inside jokes, the list goes on. The group was nearing the final stretch of finishing their placements, preparing for their “Leave one Thing” projects, they were about to begin writing a Rule of Life, and were getting ready to leave on a final year-end backpacking trip in the States. We had seven full weeks remaining in the program, through which we were going to lead our twelve young adults to a place of closure, of completion, of celebration, and we were going to send them out into the world – confident and filled with hope for the future.
Then it was gone. Just like that.
That day marked the beginning of a hard road for many of them. We tried our best to end well, but we didn’t know how. Suddenly, we were all in different cities, and the weight of this loss was bringing grief to everyone in their own ways. Time sort of just ticked by. We gathered together in Blake Street’s backyard in August 2020 as a sort of “commissioning” into their next steps. It was beautiful, but it was also heavy because of the pain of the loss that had brought us to that place.
Now here we are, two years later. Each of our twelve alumni from that year are navigating their own paths, and walking with grace into what is before them. I’m grateful for the experiences we had together and the ways I was moved to my core watching the Spirit at work in that community and in each person in unique ways. It truly was a remarkable six-and-a-half months and the impact these folks had on shaping the Blake Street home and the Act Five program continues to be seen and felt.
I write this in honour of the twelve. We love you, we think of you often and we are proud of you.
May you have peace and joy, and may you walk forward with hope. You are dearly loved. May you have eyes to see the good, hearts to grieve well the losses, and an ability to compassionately live in the tension. Keep going, friends.
Love, Alyssa (and the 2020 Act Five staff team)