Accompaniment on the Green Line

Date posted: Monday 08 January 2018

In autumn 2017, the Saint Paul Area Synod formed the Young Adult Green Line Cohort. Using the theory and practice of accompaniment as a framework for engaging our neighbors, the young adult cohort gathered weekly to ride the Green Line. At different stops, they shared meals and conversations with leaders of local faith communities in neighborhood restaurants.

 

Riding the Green Line during the first night of our young adult cohort, Pastor Peter Harrits asked us to really see our experience — take in the sights, sounds, smells, sensations, and tastes of the night — and to put aside our judgments so that we could actually be present in our time together. What stood out wasn’t the Green Line itself, but rather the young adults who made up the cohort. The simple stories of our different backgrounds and what brought us to the cohort connected us deeply.

 

Living accompaniment

It didn’t take us long to realize that we were living accompaniment — however awkwardly — not just learning about it. Each week was spent sharing spaces and knowledge with people I’d never met before. As we focused on the different values of accompaniment (mutuality, vulnerability, sustainability, inclusivity, and empowerment), I found that I was drawn to look inwardly with a critical eye and understand my own participation in relationships.

 

We started out talking about mutuality: seeing and valuing the gifts and the needs of others, and reciprocating the growth of trust among people. It only made sense then that our cohort was a strange blend of remembering names and learning backgrounds, engaging in reflective conversation, and even participating in a rousing sing-a-long of protest songs at the Dubliner Pub. Over the choruses, conversations rose about being in a state of transition as a young adult, sharing our stories of starting or ending college, finding our way into YAGM, work, grad school, and internships. A bond came with knowing that our shared stories of frustration and turmoil about not being settled meant we weren’t alone in the world.

 

Something about those first two weeks made our conversation about vulnerability that much more poignant. Over a table of steaming Korean food, leaders and young adults from House of Mercy shared our wonderings about the future of the church and where faith intersects with work. For the first time our hosts asked questions of us, sharing in the knowledge of our combined groups and drawing on the deeply felt need for all to share our discouragements and successes.

 

As our group changed and stretched from week to week, so we heard from our time with Lutheran Church of the Redeemer: living into inclusive community, even a temporary one, is work. And as our formal time together drew to a close, our learning focused on sustainability — an interesting tension.

 

We worked every week to build relationships across boundaries, but it felt counter-intuitive to talk about sustainability. Instead it served as a platform to wonder about what’s next — how will this cohort shape us? How will this impact our circles of influence?

 

Accompaniment as an experience

On our last night it still felt like we were getting to know one another. Leaving the restaurant was bittersweet for me. Feeling empowered to do something with what I’d learned and experienced, I also felt at a loss for what that would be. It took just six evenings to show me that the relationships we were building aren’t fleeting; they are glimpses of accompaniment. Each interaction, however insignificant, was an experience — an opportunity to feel deeply about the needs and gifts of others and myself, and to see, judge, interpret, act, and celebrate with another.

 

May your encounters in the days and weeks to come be experiences, and may you know yourself better through accompanying others.

 

Kelsey Battleson

High School & Young Adult Coordinator

King of Kings Lutheran Church, Woodbury

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