A week and a half ago the ECMN Youth Commission went on a road trip to host local campfire gatherings for their peers.
Here is their story in words and pictures of dreaming this up, plus an invitation to answer some questions alongside them. (Cheers to the vaccines and negative testing, which made this travel possible for this small group!)
Minnesota seemed so big, until it simply didn’t.
As the ECMN youth commission wrapped up their year on zoom together, they were lamenting about how difficult it has been so hard to get our ECMN Youth Community together during the pandemic. Given that many of them live hours apart, with vaccinations for young people still in progress, it felt like it would be one more summer of waiting for their typical camp and retreat opportunities. Then came their idea. “What if a small group of us just took a weekend road trip and hosted local bonfires for Episcopal youth to attend?”
I won’t skirt the truth that the group of us in the van were all pretty tired by the end. But our hearts were full, too.
At each place we stopped we were met with a warm fire, a full meal, smiles, stories from the last year and half, and treats for the road ahead. And we left agape notecards and care packages behind. The generosity was contagious. And the ease of this kind of trip, and how many people we were able to see, was utterly surprising. I don’t think any of us would have imagined it, if not for this pandemic. And while those of us in the traveling group were fully vaccinated / negative-tested, and we used masks and social distancing when out in public, it did really feel like we were stepping into the *new* that is coming from and because of all this.
We connected with 12 faith communities during our 800 miles of travel. These miles were *new* to us too, and as we went they became just as important as the faces.
At the midpoint of our trip The Rev. Matt Cobb and Soren Sorenson showed us St. Bart’s community garden and efforts to restore a yard with local trees and plants in Bemidji. They also took us out to the proposed site of the Line 3 Pipeline where construction piles are already waiting. We saw the protected headwaters where waters flow two ways, both down the Mississippi to the southern Gulf Coast and up to Canada and to the northern Hudson Bay. We also learned about ongoing local prevention efforts—like doing surveys for endangered insects such as the Rusty Patch Bumble bee, who is an important pollinator for blueberries, among other vegetation.
In all of our time with the people and with the land we were reminded of the following:
I am good. (And that’s enough.)
I am supported. (And connected to everyone and everything.)
I am resilient. (And able to feel for joy in all circumstances.)
I can choose love always. (And share my gifts and my heart freely.)
These are the self-affirmations that are at the core of the theological values we try to embody when we gather as the ECMN Youth Community. And even if we haven’t gathered together for a while, much of this is what we have all been handed in one difficult way or another from our experiences during the pandemic. After having driven through Duluth, Ely, Hibbing, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, and Mankato, we ended our trip back up to Minneapolis by asking one another four related questions out loud.
And if you’d like, you can join in asking them along with us, either on your own or in the comments below.
How did you see yourself as a gift during this time?
How did you experience gifts from others during this time?
What was joyful and what was hard – either just today or over this past year?
How do you want to be different now, and more freely yourself, because of all of this?