Oh, the places we’ve been!
Act Five is not even three years old, and already we have established so many poignant traditions. Each December, our staff and students pack up the Communauto vans and head out of the city to reflect and retreat on everything we’ve experienced so far.
Taking stock of what is shifting, what is changing and imagining the ways we’re being called to live faithfully can be a stretching exercise. After a recent trip to Manitoulin Island, hosted by DayStar, students shared the following reflections.
"Experiences are what make knowledge come alive." "It broke my heart to hear about native languages that are dying off, and the painstaking effort to preserve them." "I loved learning about indigenous art and making medicine bags. I could have stayed longer. There's so much we don't know." "I noticed how connected indigenous people are to the land and to nature." "It is all just statistics until you meet someone and hear their story."
This semester our students have considered the essential nature of place within scripture, and their story within God’s redemptive narrative. In the wilderness, in the city and on the road we’ve wondered about the fact that how and where we live shapes who we are. As Steven Bouma-Prediger wrote, “we care for only what we love. We love only what we know. We truly know only what we experience.” And so, we’ve touched, tasted, heard and seen beauty all around us, and have been invited to fall in love a little deeper with creation and our creator.
While we’ve put many kilometres on the road, we’ve also explored our interior landscapes. Each week in Soul Care, Nina Schuurman-Drenth led us through David Benner’s wonderful book “The Gift of Being Yourself.” In the same way we’ve cultivated habits of paying attention to building community and homemaking at Blake Street, we’ve grown in our awareness of God’s love for our true selves—the unmasked, unvarnished versions.
While we have been growing in our understanding of love of self, love of others and love of God, our community is growing and shifting, too.
In October our Spiritual Life Facilitator, Nina Schuurman-Drenth, answered a call to serve at Eucharist Church in downtown Hamilton. Nina will continue to serve as Faculty co-teaching The Six Acts course and be a pastoral presence for the students.
In the wake of Nina’s transition, Act Five is happy to welcome Lena Scholman on staff. Lena first fell for Hamilton in 1997, looking out at the city from Sam Lawrence Park. She put down roots in the east end ten years later and has been discovering the secrets of this evolving metropolis ever since. An educator, storyteller, wife and mother, Lena is committed both to the TrueCity movement—she delights in the revival of ecumenism—and New Hope Church, the faith community that has nurtured her faith for the past decade. Transformed by a gap year abroad years ago, she is thrilled to walk alongside young people at Act Five and bear witness to lives changed through intentional living—rooted in place and anchored in Jesus.
As anyone with adolescents knows, the best conversations happen on the road. Our staff often share how frequently we see exponential growth in our students as we are headed back to Blake Street—whether from Manitoulin, Long Point or Toronto. In September, students felt like they were returning to a dorm, a house with wild wallpaper and a clicking radiator, a place where their suitcases sat semi-unpacked. Today, they open the doors to Blake on a Sunday evening and we begin the week in worship, singing Jill Weber’s song, Even the Sparrow:
“The table is set, we will sit down, and feast…we’re coming home. We’re coming home.”