The most important investment we made in campus ministry last year was buying rocking chairs for the front porch. Our ministry, which is a partnership of St. Stephen’s in Huntsville and the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, is headquartered in a historic brick house on the main campus of Sam Houston State University. The addition of white rocking chairs to the front porch was initially a move to boost curb appeal but quickly became a defining part of our ministry. Bible study moved outside to the porch, Eucharist moved outside to the porch, and conversations started to change because of the rocking chairs.
The rocking chairs slowed conversations down. Deep silences arose and were not awkward because we could just keep rocking with no need to talk. Rock through a few deep silences and then the real conversations begin, the hard questions come up. Those rocking chairs became the safe place where our ideas about truth, and pain, and God could actually be put into words.
Our campus ministry didn’t do anything big, or fancy, or traditionally successful last year. Just a few dinners, a couple rounds of darts at the rectory, and lots and lots of great conversations in rocking chairs. Those deep conversations, combined with a history of faithful lay leadership, and a lot of grace led to some deep success in the past year. Three alums from our ministry are serving in the Episcopal Service Corps and two alumni couples will be getting married in the Church. This is deep success for our ministry because it shows students bringing God to bear on the most important questions of early adulthood; what shall I do, and whom shall I love?
The rocking chairs turned out to be an investment in vocation. The deep conversations in those chairs and the relationships they fostered, allowed students to imagine their career paths in terms of calling and to frame their love lives in terms of the love of God.
I hope our rocking chairs can be a source of encouragement for ministries and missional communities that worry they are too small. Slowing down, rocking awhile, and allowing for the silence that leads to deep conversation can yield deep successes for those who slow down to notice them.