As we at Act Five (and as an extension of Redeemer) commit to being good global neighbours, our students have fully moved out of Blake St, have headed home, and are working to finish our year together these next two weeks each in their own places.
For a program rooted in a lived theology of place and in community living, this is far from easy. We miss the dinner table, chats on the kitchen floor, walks up the escarpment, and time worshipping together in the living room. We were excited to celebrate the end of placements, to get bikes out again for the coming warm weather in Hamilton, to hike a part of the Appalachian trail and to throw a big party this spring for graduation.
With space to grieve this, we are also finding creative ways to engage together online, to deliver “quarantine packages” to our students, to encourage each other and pray together, and to still celebrate as best we can.
In the midst of this, I want to offer the following reflection:
In 2 Chronicles 7, Solomon has just built his temple, a massive moment for the history of God’s people. God is coming to dwell among His people in a new way. The picture in Chronicles is a week of full-hearted communal praise and partying.
Finally, after the celebrating is over and people are sent home, God speaks to Solomon, affirming that he has heard his prayer and has chosen to dwell in this new place. He then – in the midst of all the joy – speaks the following:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send plague among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (vv. 13-14, ESV)
For some reason, God deems it important in this moment to communicate to His people that the drought and plagues will come, that the ever-repeating tides of history that move between comfort and dismay – having much and having little, being given and having taken away – will of course be true even now, when things seem so so good. And when this happens, God says, ‘Be ready. Stay with me. Seek me. Humble yourselves to my Lordship. And I will listen, forgive and heal your land.’
The community of Act Five is far from representative of the whole of Israel. What these 12 students, us as staff, and the community behind us have experienced in our inaugural year is not on the scale of Solomon’s temple.
But anyone who has paid any attention this year to the stories that have burst out of the seams of 75 Blake St can bear witness to the very real and very rich incarnational presence of God that has been active among Act Five these past 7 months. God has dwelt – and continues to dwell – among our community this year. He has been on the move in and through our students, and we have had many moments worth praising Him, just as when Solomon completed his temple.
Now, the drought or locusts or, quite literally, the plague has come. The COVID-19 pandemic is far bigger than our small program, but we feel significant disappointment nonetheless. Our students have walked through a profound season of their lives together, and it can easily feel as if we were stripped of being able to properly celebrate and finish the story the way we believed it needed to finish.
However, Act Five is rooted in a commitment to find ourselves in the Biblical story and to navigate with young adults our call to faithfully improvise together what it means to follow Christ no matter what our world throws at us. So, among our moments of sadness, disappointment, sometimes anger, and confusion, we are called – just as God spoke to Solomon – to humble ourselves to His ways that are higher than ours, to seek His face and to pray. What this means for us is being creative as an online community, leaving space to grieve but continuing to meet to pray every morning, to study scripture together, and to tell the stories that need to be told.
As God asks of His people in 2 Chronicles, we trust that God is listening and that He sees us and forgives us when we falter, and we – with the rest of the global Church – await His healing hand in each of our places, in this land, and in our world at large.
While we feel short-term loss this spring for a program cut short, I am confident in the fruit that will grow out of our students’ lives, through the work of Christ in them, for years to come.
Thank you to all who have so faithfully followed along with us this year.
Director of Act Five