In an effort to keep our project as young adult centered as possible, we’ve been cultivating an advisor program over the past year that is now entering its second iteration. We’re still in the process of building this community, but we got things started with a committed core of folks over dinner in late August. Each person attending was asked to bring an object that was representative of their spiritual journey, and after plowing through some delicious Middle Eastern food and weighing the pros and cons of religious emojis, we got down to the good stuff: Speaking and listening to each other in earnest about the beautiful and painful moments in our lives and how our sense of spirituality has accompanied and emerged with us along the way. One interesting observation was that almost every object had a manual or tangible component to it, which is something that’s given us food for thought in our work at the Collective. Here two participants share their objects and accompanying narratives:
Spiritual Object: purple metal-flake Innova Gator disc golf disc
Significance: As an atheist well beyond my “angry atheist” phase & now in my third year living with my wife, an Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary student, in seminary housing, I’ve been rediscovering and reframing spiritual practice, ritual, & belief in my life recently. When contemplating my most prized spiritual object, a disc came to mind, as the disc golf life style affords me many of the spiritual, community-based, & centering highlights that a space like church or a practice like religion might otherwise provide—a support system, communion with nature, ritual, mind/body connection, etc. This particular disc is one I use rarely, as its flight characteristics are quite particular for specific shots, but as it’s a rare disc and so reliable, I hold it very close to my heart. It’s also the one I usually pour water in for my puppy Ginny to drink during rounds. I nearly lost it the other day, accidentally leaving it behind in a hole; luckily the group behind me returned it, a bright tick in the day.
Spiritual Object: hand-carved piece of pottery (pictured in photo)
Significance: I started taking pottery classes, learning how to throw pots, during a difficult time in my life. It was very centering for me (pottery aficionados, pardon the pun!). This was a time that I felt distant from the church and was attempting to work through some personal, tough stuff. Miraculously, in class one day, I threw what was my first “perfect” cylinder and my teacher suggested that I carve it. At first I was terrified of messing it up but then I spent hours meticulously cutting into the clay. I made mistakes but was able to morph them into something beautiful. This piece of art helped me reconnect with myself and with what I was seeking to accomplish through the class. Sometimes life/objects/faith/yourself can turn out to be much more beautiful than you ever thought…even after some pieces have been removed. I found my way back to the church, and several years later, to pottery class where I am once again grateful for the focus this practice gives to me and my life of faith.
This opening dinner is the first in a series of dinners for the young adults who will be serving in an advisor capacity. Stay tuned for more updates, helpful resources, and further reports on these gatherings.