The summer before I left Kansas for seminary, I served as the youth leader for the First Presbyterian Church of Wichita. My last responsibility in this role was escorting the young people on a mission trip to Washington state. The trip by van was long, and the the time spent together in narrow church corridors was vast. Close bonds were formed and, upon return, tears were shed, phone numbers exchanged, and vows were made to be close forever.
This is not uncommon. It is a natural occurrence, especially in camps and trips were students have no prior acquaintance. I call it the fellowship of the bus and bunk. Now in my youth I tended toward cynicism and I looked upon this outflow of emotion with a skeptical eye. Surely such sentiment was temporary, bordering on artificial. It was felt in the moment but could it be sustained?
It wasn’t. At least not by the exacting standards that I had applied to it. We all grow busy and move on with our lives. Such an intense sense of community cannot be maintained. At the time I saw this as a failure.
Fortunately, seminary had the ability to widen my eyes and open my heart a bit. As time went on, and I reflected upon my own relationships, severed by my decision to leave for California, I found a bit more grace. Rather than scoff at the superficiality of the Bus and Bunk, we should celebrate that it happened at all, It is not insight to say that it is a tremendous challenge to maintain intense relationships over time. So many demands, so little time. Certainly the pandemic has exacerbated this problem, perhaps enhancing this sense that we don’t appreciate these communal times when we had them.
Theologian Paul Tillich speaks of this in his sermon “The New Being”, words that capture splendidly not only the fellowship of the Bus and Bunk but most of our sacred relationships.
“We do not want to convert you to us, not even to the best of us. This would be of no avail. We want only to show you something e have seen and to tell you something we have heard: That in the midst of the old creation there is a New Creation, and that this New Creation is manifest in Jesus who is called the Christ.” And also, “Here and there in the world, and now and again in ourselves, is a New Creation.”
Here and there in the world and now and again in ourselves is a New Creation. In a clattery church kitchen, on a beach in western Washington, at a funeral or a wedding; there can be a New Creation. We don’t create these moments, the moments create us—of recreate us—as we feel the splendor of a shared humanity.
King Arthur’s vision of Camelot was glorious, but it did not last. As the story begins we are present at the siege, as Arthur is compelled to attack his best friend, Lancelot and his queen, Guenevere, hold up in a castle. A page boy passes who wants to participate in the battle. Arthur sends him away and then, upon second thought, charges him with a sacred task. Remember and tell the story. Dont let it be forgot, that once there was a spot for happily every aftering—-that was Camelot.
Here and there in the world and now and again in ourselves is a New Creation. That is what we wish to tell you. In the midst of the old creation there is a New Creation manifest in Jesus who is called the Christ.