It was June 10, 2015 and my girlfriend and I were returning from a post-graduation vacation to the Dominican Republic when I received the phone call. It was Dr. James Wickman offering me the position of Coordinator for Ecumenical Christian Life at the university from which I graduated less than a month ago. Immediately after the phone call ended, an overwhelming sense of anxiety fell over me.
Don’t get me wrong; I was grateful that I was offered the position. It was not (and still isn’t) lost on me the privilege of working at an institution such as Georgetown. Not to mention I had a job! Although I didn’t know it at the time, my counterintuitive feelings came from a lack in understanding of what exactly Campus Ministry was, as a whole. I had experience with Protestant Ministry (Gospel Choir, GU Brothers for Christ) as well as Catholic Ministry (Jesuit Heritage Week, Advent/Lent Devotionals), but that was the extent of my relationship with Campus Ministry. So when I found out that 40+ hours of my week would be centered on this department, I felt unprepared and out-of-place.
And I was.
Looking back now, I was worse off than I thought. My first lesson was in learning the definition of a homily. I had to learn which collared men to call Father and which not. It was in reading the job description when I discovered that Orthodox Christianity existed. And those are only the Christian traditions! I realized early on that any attempt at pretending to know anything about anything would end futilely. I thus adopted the mindset of an incessantly questioning child, picking the brains of those within the department about anything that came up in conversation that I didn’t understand. Those conversations would then turn from the “what” to the “why” of the things they did. It was then that I’d get stories of what happened in college that started them on their current path. I would learn what they struggled with, even after years in this profession. They would tell me why they believe what they believe. That’s when I started to realize I was a part of the family.
Without knowing it, I became a part of a group of people in this Georgetown community who will have the opportunity to have extended conversations with our chaplains. I became a member of the family; able to learn from the stories my relatives share and apply them to my own journey. I became a member of the family who now has a means to connect with a wide array of people because I have had a glimpse into their worlds. And now that I’m in, I want to share it. And that is the goal of my newest initiative.
Hilltop Chats is a podcast where I share conversations with our chaplains, staff and students about their experiences on and off the Hilltop. In these conversations, we get a glimpse of what made these people who they are today. What are their beliefs? What are their joys? What are their fears? They answer fun questions and hard questions – all in the name of deepening our understanding of meaning, belonging and purpose in our own personal journeys.
So I encourage you to join in this formative experience whether while commuting or studying or simply resting from a good day’s work. My hope is that I can soon say that we all feel a part of this family, growing and learning together in faith.
Written by Jordan D. Blackwell, Coordinator for Ecumenical Christian Life