For months after finding out I was chosen to go to South Korea for the World Council of Churches (WCC) as part of a program for graduate students in theology or young theologians, the Graduate Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI), I tried very, very hard not to be intimidated by this opportunity, specifically, by my fellow “young theologians.”
But the more I learned about my fellow GETI participants, the more intimidated I became. I felt inadequate, unprepared, and out of place… and we’re not even there yet! Some students are working on PhDs, some already have them, some are decades older than me, some have taken class upon class on ecumenism, some have a plethora of practical experience in ecumenical efforts. You get the picture. I’m a 24-year-old, 2nd-year Master of Divinity student, a degree that while still academic, prepares one for ministry, not necessarily for the field (the competitive battlefield?) of academia.* My experience with ecumenical efforts is solely relational: some of my best friends are Protestant or Orthodox Christians, and I am a Catholic Christian. My lack of professional experience in the field made (makes?) me feel like I have a sign on me that says, “I am not worthy to be here. You all are better prepared for this than me.”
But then one day it just hit me. My mindset was all wrong.
This isn’t about the fact that a lot of the students are older than me and have had more exposure to ecumenical work- both at the academic and practical levels.
This isn’t about the fact that “young” is defined loosely and that some of my fellow students are 30 and 40-somethings working on PhDs or already with them.
This isn’t about the fact that I feel I was chosen because they needed someone from my demographic: female and Catholic.
This isn’t about the fact that some of my fellow students are ordained and pastoring churches.
This isn’t about my smallness.
This isn’t about my fear.
This isn’t about me.
This is about you and me, us, the Church, the world.
This is about building up the Body of Christ, finding unity in diversity.
This is about receiving this opportunity as a gift that I will steward.
This is about faithfully accepting this opportunity and giving it the time and energy it deserves… for the sake of the human family.
This is about being gentle with myself, honoring the gifts I bring, and using them to let this gift, this experience, bear fruit for the life of the world.
This is about not getting caught up in my to-do list and my fears and everything else related to this experience, but instead getting caught up in the movement of the Spirit, uniting us as the People of God.
I was so focused on my own smallness that I was missing the huge sign of life and hope that will be unfolding before my very eyes next week, that is already unfolding in the work the WCC behind the scenes or in the interactions we’ve had as GETI online.
So I have resolved…to acknowledge my fear, but to choose to live from a different space, a different mindset. To own who I am without apology and without jockeying in the competitive arena of “who has more to offer.” Instead, I will go with open hands. Open hands to accept the gift of this opportunity, open hands to experience the beauty of Korean culture, open hands to embrace my brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world, open hands to offer and continue to receive the beauty of ecumenism I have known: relationships.
In the weeks to come, as I head off to Korea, I will share more about this trip, including semi-logistical updates (possibly) for those who care, explanatory posts about the WCC, GETI, and what is ecumenism, reflections from things I experience while in Korea, and musings that occur as I unpack the experience of the WCC in Korea. Thanks for journeying with me, friends!
Preparing for the journey,